Friday, 15 February 2013

Robin Cook - Terminal

I’m annoyed at myself for putting off this review for as long as I have.  However, now my significant other has finished reading it too I found myself in a position to revisit a book that left me sitting on the fence over whether it was good or not.

Overall the book is pretty decent. It tells a solid story and balances the research aspects with character development as well as telling a fictional tale involving mystery, love, and science. However there were moments, several in fact, where I wanted to throw the book at the fictional characters’ heads.

The first one occurs on page 16 where the one of the characters is seemingly very pleased with himself for not having an alcoholic drink for three days. This may just be my age though. Terminal was written in 1993 so daily drinking may have been the norm. However, three days without an alcoholic drink – not so much of an achievement. It’s only a small gripe and it’s more about the words used than the character himself.

The next one is small as well, but there is also a technical issue with it. The sentence on page 20 reads, ‘Staff at the Forbes Cancer Centre was...’ where ‘was should be ‘were’ as ‘Staff’ is plural. It’s this kind of mistake that should stop me reading and would certainly have stopped a publisher from considering the novel for publication if it was submitted now.

Next, on page 23 we have overdone dialogue description. ‘“Great!” Sean said sarcastically.’ It is perfectly clear from the conversation preceding this sarcastic comment that Sean is being sarcastic in a sarcastic kind of way. I would expect it to be there if the dialogue did not make the sarcasm clear. But it does. Sarcastically.

By page 58 I had lost count of the many different character perspectives the story had been written from. Generally, I don’t have a problem with changing perspectives. Robin Cook breaks them down in different chapters however the chapters are not very long which made it difficult to get into. After this initial onslaught of different perspectives, it then settles down to a constant three or four, but by that point I’d forgotten about the initial others – which makes me wonder. How important can they be?

Page 199 introduces us the Miami police department who are depicted as slow, unkempt, careless and not really that bothered about the situation they have been called out to – much like every other police officer in the history of fiction, where the fiction was not written by former members of the police force or alternative public servicemen. My point is that it is becoming very clich├ęd to have bad policemen show up in fiction and be bad at their jobs. It would have been less detrimental to the story to sum the scene up with one line and move on.

On page 210 we are introduced to a character named Tim who has one line. Who the fuck is Tim and why should we, the audience, give a shit about his one redundant line? He may have been introduced before but if I can’t remember him at this juncture then his name is insignificant.

There are a few other small technical errors that caught my attention. There is over-repetition in one page, incorrect work usage on another – they aren’t big mistakes but they are catching my attention which kind of ruins the story.

So in summary, Terminal is a good book. It’s not going to set the world on fire but it’s not God awful. It’s just a shame that some careless writing ruined a few quality moments.

Terminal by Robin Cook was published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1993. RRP £4.99 (Paperback)