[Disclaimer: this review is about Host, by Robin Cook -not The Host, which is instead a Stephanie Meyer’s novel – which you’ll probably never find here. Why? Simply because I don’t talk about books just to trash them, and silence has always looked to me the best policy when I can’t offer anything good / constructive. Just saying.]
Host is what I call a Crichton-style techno-thriller – for many reasons, one being the fact that it treats similar topics (I’ll probably never get over Crichton’s untimely death. Not happy with having re-read for the n-th time the whole lot – fiction books and not – I’m now trying to find a replacement. Desperate, isn’t it?). Here’s the blurb:
The explosive new thriller from New York Times-bestselling author and master of the medical thriller, Robin Cook, takes readers back to where the genre began, and the questions posed in Coma: what happens when innocent hospital patients are used as medical ‘incubators’ against their will?
Lynn Peirce, a fourth-year medical student at Mason-Dixon University, thinks she has her life figured out. But when her otherwise healthy boyfriend, Carl, is admitted to hospital for routine surgery, Lynn is devastated by
his sudden death. Convinced there’s more to the story than the authorities are willing to reveal, Lynn searches for evidence of medical malpractice with the help of her lab partner, Michael. What she uncovers, however, is far more
disturbing. Hospitals associated with Middleton Healthcare, including the one attached to the university, have unnervingly high rates of unexplained complications and patients contracting serious and terminal illnesses following routine surgery.
When Lynn and Michael begin to receive death threats, they realise they must discover the truth, before the shadowy forces behind Middleton Healthcare can put a stop to their efforts once and for all.
Strong points: as the analogy with Crichton might have already suggested, Host is a scientifically accurate novel, especially for the medical part. This is, in my view, one of the most interesting things about it – you have the impression that the author knows well what he’s talking about, and you can trust him when he tells you something about MRI or strange viruses (you can, indeed – among other things, Robin Cook got a PG medical training in Harvard. For the author’s page, see this.)
In addition to that, the story is enthralling, fast-paced and utterly entertaining. Difficult to put it down, if you enjoy thrillers.
Weak points: (1) It’s similar to other Cook’s thrillers books (like, say, Cell). If this is the first you read, that’s all fine & good, if it’s the fifth you may well start asking while not to vary the recipe a little bit. I know that you don’t change a winning team (football mantra), but some additional spice on top of a well-written novel would make a lot of good to keep even faithful readers happy.
(2) I was not overall convinced by the characters, but this is a more general problem of many action-packed novels that privilege plot and suspense over character development. Now, to me, a good book is always a book about people -otherwise I don’t see the point of reading fiction at all. This is where Host sometimes comes short. Michael is certainly the most developed character, while Lynn is not very convincing. Moreover, the technique often used by thriller writers to shift from one character’s point of view to another, while effective in moving forward the plot, has the side effect of not taking anything into depth, especially when you don’t have 200k pages GoT style but only “puny” 80K.
Said that, with these limitations, Host is a captivating reading, especially attractive to people that like rigorous science and enjoy reading about naughty corporations, in the hope they get dutifully punished at the end. They not always end like that, in real life as much as in fiction, but the ride is generally worthwhile: it is, in Host‘s case.
Where I got it: purchased at the airport for a long-haul flight (London-Tokyo). I finished it before the arrival.