© 2014 Robin Cook
The future of medicine is here, in the form of a smartphone that can function as a medical diagnostic tool, complete with a machine-learning program called “iDoc” which monitors patients’ diets and vitals, chatting with them about their health and prescribing advice or pills as appropriate. iDoc is poised to revolutionize medicine, reducing costs and focusing on long-term preventive care rather than crisis response. Why then, does a small but chronic percentage of its beta test group keep dying?
The premise is the most interesting part of Cell, and once it’s absorbed early on everything else is downhill. The main character is a radiologist trying to cope with the sudden death of his fiance, and perhaps his grief keeps him distracted: as a main character goes, he’s not particularly savvy. He’s kind of dumb, in fact; at one point he’s being transparently probed for info by a woman in a bar and is completely oblivious, despite the fact that he didn’t seem all that interested in her to begin with. (Why is he even dating a couple of months after the love of his life died? Plot demands, I suppose.)
Fortunately for him, the ‘bad guys’ aren’t really bad guys, they’re just managing a problem and at the end of the day, everyone goes home happy despite deaths, car chases, kidnappings, and burglary; the main character’s faint worries are taken care of by dropping a letter to a friend with the message “If anything happens to me, read this and do what you will” attached to a longer report. At the heart of the story Cook is embedded a serious question about medical ethics, one iDoc ignores with HAL-9000esque execution. Robin Cook seems to be a very popular author, so I may give him another try, focusing on his earlier work in which the medical thrills were more important than the author’s brand name.
As thrillers go, this was an excellent premise that unfortunately flatlines once the stage is set.