Thursday, May 31, 2012

Micro - by Michael Crichton & Richard Preston

"Jurassic Park's" Michael Crichton wrote one-third of this techno-thriller before his death in 2008 and "The Hot Zone's" Richard Preston completed it.

Nanigen MicroTechnologies Corporation has somewhat secretly developed the technology to miniaturize people and objects. A group of talented young researchers from Cambridge, Massachusetts, accept an offer to learn more about promising and potentially lucrative opportunities with the successful upstart technology company that is headquartered in Hawaii. Unfortunately, their would-be employer is a money- and power-mad science entrepreneur named Vin Drake and, when they almost immediately get caught up in a scheme of deception and greed, he shrinks them to a height of about one-half inch. They are deserted in a tropical rainforest where they must face now giant ants, spiders, moths, bees, and wasps, as well as a variety of other plants, creatures, and insects. Meanwhile, from the full-size world, the evil Drake tries his best to stamp out the miniaturized scientists and Detective Dan Watanabe investigates a set of events that converge on Nanigen and Drake.

I am normally not a science fiction fan. "Micro," though, was good enough thriller to generally keep my interest. I also felt like I learned a little about the micro-biological world. While it is not a personal favorite, I enjoyed it and am glad that I read it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blood Feud - by Kathleen Sharp

This book exposes how money and profits drive Big Pharma's enormous influence on the medical industry and ultimately the health of its patients, as well as the pockets of taxpayers who subsidize it.  At the center of the story is an anti-anemia drug developed in the 1980's by a start-up named Amgen.  In a move to save the company, they licensed it to industry giant Johnson & Johnson.  The two companies, armed with a non-competitive marketing agreement, sold the miraculous "blood booster" drug under the names Procrit, Epogen, and Aranesp.  Fueled by sales tactics like biased marketing studies, off-invoice rebates, doctor payments, and off-label promotions, though, the drug was pitched for uses and dosages that led to billions in annual sales and turned it into a huge biotech blockbuster with some disregarded dangers.

It is also the human story of Mark Duxbury, who paid a huge price for his transformation from award winning Procrit salesman to whistleblower.  In the end, even with the help of his former colleague and good friend Dean McClellan, who provided a treasure trove of damning documents, I was somewhat surprised with the alarming outcome (or lack of one) in the end.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shock Wave - by John Sandford

Shock Wave is the fifth novel by John Sandford starring Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension detective Virgil Flowers.   Mega-chain store, PyeMart is building one of their stores in small town Butternut Falls, Minnesota, and now bombs are going off.  The first was at PyeMart headquarters in Michigan, but then the explosions start to rock Butternut Falls.  Virgil is sent to help both local law enforcement and the Feds (ATF) track down the bomber and stop the related terror and tragedy.

While I have read several novels in Sandford's "Prey" series, I am certainly not as familiar with his books as many others.  Based on this story, however, I plan to read more.  Virgil Flowers is a top-notch investigator without being super-human.  He has long hair, wears classic rock t-shirts, is not a fighting machine with his arsenal always at the ready, drags a fishing boat around, has a string of ex-wives, and his current long-distance relationship seems to be cooling.  In other words he is both very likable and very believable.  While this may be a poor comparison in many ways, Virgil's style almost reminds me of watching Lieutenant Columbo long ago.  He talks to lots of people and at first glance may not seem to be the sharpest and most insightful of detectives.  Somehow, however, he listens and relates to others and his powers of observation and deduction pull the truth out of substantial noise and diversion.