Robin Cook is one of my favourite writers for obvious reasons. He is/was a practising Surgeon who specializes in Ophthalmology (those surgeons who only operate on the eye). By now my followers already know I love doctor-writers. Michael Palmer, Robin Cook, AJ Cronin, Ben Carson, Sigmund Freud, the list is endless. Medical thrillers are my favourite casual reads. In God Player, Robin Cook outdid himself.

In my opinion the book deserves to be in the same class as the author’s bestsellers. His brilliant works; Coma, Brain and Fever rightly belong in this class as well…. Although I found Coma a tad too outlandish and delusional; a third year medical student solving a major medical mystery that even qualified doctors could not solve. Perhaps I am biased by the fact that I read the book when I was already done with medical school. It is my belief that Coma was meant for a more adolescent audience as a source of inspiration. I find it peculiar that the dark Twilight series was also meant for the same audience. I found Twilight to be extremely dark and too close to resembling the actual reality the work of fiction tries to emulate.

Back to God Player…The plot, as customary with the writer in question, is deceptively simple. A hot young trainee (Psychiatry resident) marries a great heart surgeon who dithers in drug abuse which ultimately leads to his demise. Apart from the safe stereotypes of the Psychiatrist as the sappy doctors and the Surgeons as direct servants of God, the book raises a serious and often suppressed fact that mental illness is more prevalent among doctors compared to the rest of professions. Dr. Thomas Kingsley, the self-proclaimed best Cardiac Surgeon in the country (of the United States of Armies), marries the beautiful Psychiatry intern who makes a major shift from Pathology to Psychiatry on account of a debilitating medical disorder (juvenile diabetes mellitus) she knows she will eventually succumb to.

It is deceptive to assume that Cassie is the protagonist of the story. It is actually Thomas who holds that honour. Like most Surgeons he is genital philanthropist and has the temper of big brown bear….who has sex with a lion….and sired the grumpy character in the movie Inside Out. He uses the medical license of his dead former landlord to prescribe narcotic and amphetamine drugs to himself. He hoards bottles and bottles of the orange dynamites in the second drawer of whichever desk he is sitting behind. The sharp intern-wife uses her medical wits to put pieces in the puzzle that has Thomas’ fingerprints all over the place. Add to that a bitchy mother who I assume the Harpers’ mother in Two and a Half Men was based on.

All angles added, Robin Cook deserves a star on my Robin Cook-vs-Michael Palmer contest chart. So far its neck and neck. I still have a lot of reading to do on the long list. I highly recommend this book….especially if you love medical thrillers like I do.


BOOK REVIEW: The Eyes of the Sphinx by Erich von Daniken

Erich von Daniken is perhaps one of the most controversial writers to have graced our bookshelves in the past century. His works seek to open one’s mind to the possibilities and probabilities that do not seem to have a convincing or conclusive refutation. He specialised in the alien theory; the proposal that we have in fact encountered alien beings who influenced the great marvels sprinkled throughout humanity’s history. He attempts to gather as much evidence as he can to support this theory and this book, The Eyes of the Sphinx, does just that.

In the book, Erich argues that what we have been commonly told about the ancient Egyptians is actually not true. As he propels his argument he takes a dig at the so-called Egyptologists who have established themselves as the unquestioned authority on Egyptian history and archaeology. He ends the book on the same angry note. He has always been very persuasive although he tends to have an irritating penchant for embellishment; a weakness he shares with Dan Brown.

The book is well-written and it absolves my disappointment with his other work, In Search of Ancient Gods, which I found to be poorly written and unconvincing.  In The Eyes of the Sphinx Erich makes reference to works I have actually read myself. He makes reference to the Book of Enoch which also happens to be one of my favourite theological texts. I firmly believe in this book (Book of Enoch) as it is completely consistent with the Holy Bible.

What I also found particularly interesting was the Egyptologists’ response to the book; unreserved revulsion. This is quite telling. Why would they be upset if they actually had evidence of their own to rebut the claims made in the book? I was left with the feeling that the author was justified in his jibe, “The attitude of these Egyptologists is reminiscent of the famous trio of monkeys: They hear nothing, see nothing and say nothing.”

I highly recommend this book, especially for the anarchists among us.

BOOK REVIEW: The Judas Tree by AJ Cronin

AJ Cronin and I have a lot in common. We are both doctors and writers. We are both misunderstood. The list is quite exhaustive. Naturally I gravitated towards this book, The Judas Tree, because of the shared background and the theological connotations of the title. Theology is one of my deep interests. Judas is best known as the ultimate traitor. He betrayed his master for a paltry sum of silver coins, thirty of them to be exact. In penance for his sin he committed suicide by connecting his neck to a tree branch via a rope and letting gravity do the rest.

The book is semi-autobiographical just like most of the writer’s works. The protagonist, Dr. David Morey, is the typical rags-to-riches character of a doctor who struggled to come out of training but was blown away by one of the myriad opportunities the profession offers. He proposes to marry an innocent rural lass, Mary, and falls deathly ill will a respiratory tract infection which forces him to take to the seas for fresh air. He gets a job as the Ship Surgeon and quickly draws the attention of the well-to-do Holbrook family. His potential is undeniable. Their daughter, Dottie, throws herself at David and he is trapped in a life of luxury. He goes on to marry the spoiled brat and earn his stake in the family fortune.

Relief comes when Dottie finally dies. He starts to look back on the life he ran away from and the girl he let down. The esteemed doctor heads back home, Scotland, in search of redemption. He finds Mary also buried and Providence affords him acquaintance with Mary’s daughter Kathy whom he tries to spoil the way he always hoped to spoil her mother. This road leads to his own Judas tree, lálbero dei dannati, the Italian term for ‘the tree of lost souls.’

The language is flowery and fluid. The characters invoke such deep emotions you get the feeling that the author actually had a feel of all those emotions himself. I highly regard AJ Cronin and I highly recommend this book.

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