“Host” by Robin Cook explores medical/biotech ethical issues intertwined with a thrilling storyline. This book mirrors his best-selling 1977 novel “Coma” that spurred him to be known as the master of medical thrillers. Now more than 30 books later, this ophthalmologist turned writer expands on the issues of greed and medicine.
The plot begins with Carl Vandermeer, a healthy millennial, undergoing a routine operation to repair his knee. Yet, something goes terribly wrong with the anesthesia, leaving Carl in a vegetative state with no brain activity. His girlfriend, Lynn Peirce, a fourth-year medical student at South Carolina’s Mason-Dixon University, where Carl’s operation took place, believes something has gone awry. She enlists her good friend, Michael Pender, also a fourth year medical student, to find out why this hospital, and others associated with Sentinel Healthcare, have high rates of unexplained anesthetic complications.
This is in addition to patients entering the hospital with one complaint, but leaving with a more serious medical issue. Lynn and Michael must find answers while fighting the shadowy forces that are attempting to thwart their efforts.
Besides getting an action packed story readers learn about the dangers regarding healthcare. The theme of the book explains how both pharmaceutical companies and hospital corporations are basically robbing patients legally. In this case a conspiracy exists between Mason-Dixon University, Shapiro Institute, and Sidereal Pharmaceuticals. A powerful quote shows the pharmaceutical industry’s hypocrisy, “They want people to think their motivation is for the public good when they are, in fact, poster boys for capitalism run amok…The reality is that they spend more money on advertising prescription drugs directly to the pubic than they spend on research.”
“Once I began medical school, I realized the patient was not the center of things; the doctor and the medical profession were. I thought, ‘Someday, I’m going to write about the way it really is,’” Cook said. “I became a writer to show the problems with healthcare. I wanted to write about medicine that was closer to the truth. For this book I wanted to point out how the various stockholders are taking advantage of all of us. We are spending way too much on healthcare with very mediocre results. Hospitals are unsafe, just look at the statistics I quote in my book, which are all true. The only people now disenfranchised and out of the system are the patients and doctors. The only way the system can change is the people must demand change, which is where my books come in, as warnings.”
As with all of Cook’s books he lends a level of authenticity by including medical procedures and research. In Host he details with some exaggeration how biologics works. This new product of the pharmaceutical companies is not based on drugs being made with chemicals but with antibodies.
“They are derived from mouse cells that have been further altered with great effort to make them invisible to the human immune system,” Cook said. “What they are doing in Host would make them all human. The mystery comes in when the hospital conspires to create guinea pigs by putting patients in a vegetarian state. I did not tie everything up in a bow because I want readers to understand how the pharmaceutical companies and hospital corporations are still using patients for their own benefit, both monetarily and for research purposes.”
He also gave a heads up about his next projects. The book will delve into social media and medicine. It takes place in Boston, which means both Lynn and Michael might be returning. Cook is also hoping to make a movie after forming his own production company. He did this because he wants control over his own storyline based on his vision, not the director’s.
“Host” is a very suspenseful novel that is also a warning to all readers. They begin to understand that those in charge of healthcare have no restrictions and are never transparent. Since healthcare will affect everyone people need to read this informative, action-packed page-turner.