Review by Yicheng Liu -- The Prize by Geoffrey M Cooper

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Yicheng Liu
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Review by Yicheng Liu -- The Prize by Geoffrey M Cooper

Post by Yicheng Liu » 22 Jun 2018, 08:46

[Following is a volunteer review of "The Prize" by Geoffrey M Cooper.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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To be honest, I originally didn't expect much of this book, as the Medical Drama genre isn't exactly known for being the cornucopia of page-turners. So I was pleasantly surprised to have stumbled upon this gem of a novel.

'The Prize' is the debut novel of an actual scientist who wrote a textbook on cancer named Geoffrey M. Cooper, as the story is set within the boundaries of the medical science, the story could already be seen as off to a great start since the author seemed comfortable and seasoned in describing the day-to-day lives of Dr. Pamela Weller, an up-and-coming young scientist determined to find the cure for Alzheimer's Disease.

Solid writing was evident in how the writer introduced the primary antagonist, Dr. Eric Prescott, a man who was introduced in the very first chapter as a party schmoozer who hangs with the elite; this was in contrast with Pam's introduction as a fledgling scientist who had just been given a tiny lab and are at risk of losing her job during a mid-tenure review. This contrast between the two would only be expanded upon with more nuance as the story progresses, as Dr. Prescott's ruthless streak was lured out by the temptation of gaining worldwide fame and praise for the ground-breaking discovery of the drug to the cure the disease.

Geoffrey M Cooper wrote a grim depiction of a truly dark and cutthroat pecking order within the medical community as represented by Dr. Prescott and his 'allies' stopped to unethical extremes to gain fame, prestige, and fortune. The allure of the Nobel Prize was shown to be the object of an unhealthy adoration by Dr. Prescott, motivating the character to cross path with Pam as she struggled to navigate the sinister web of lies and twists created by Dr. Prescott in his attempt to gain what he perceived to be rightfully his.

A thing that I found was quite interesting about the story was the author's conscious choice of indexing the chapters by dates instead of chapter numbers to the progression of time and everything had gone terribly wrong within the time-span of a year and a few months. Normally, stories with elements of a crime drama usually has a short time limit that takes place within the span of only a few days; I'm personally quite glad that the story didn't choose to go down that path as the greater values of the story would be diminished if the story had taken place with the short span of only a few days or weeks. The careful attention to the time-frame of the events taking place was a piece of detail that added to the realism of the story and deserves special mention.

Reading this story had been quite easy as the author used, thankfully, simple language and there was no trace of excessive purple prose to be found, along there was the occasional segue into the intricacies of modern-day chemistry lab-equipment, but that was almost entirely welcomed as the story really did require moments where the plot needs to have certain scientific procedures explained as so much of the plot revolves around finding the right drug. I found that the story was a breeze once I had fallen into a day-to-day rhythm of reading this book. As a reader with only the barest understanding of proper science since the days of high-school chemistry classes, the down-to-earth descriptions were a relief as I never felt alienated by pointless sophistry.

However, as someone who had read their fair share of fiction and written a few short stories, an area that I felt was somewhat jarring on a technical level was the occasional lapse into passive voice and even a discreet switch from third-person narration into first-person at bits as personal thoughts and ideas of the characters were embedded into the narration awkwardly. They're all just inconsequential nit-picks as it can be forgiven in the big picture of the overall quality and there were few, if any, grammar errors. So, on that front, I do not believe I have much to add beyond that point. There's no point quibbling over tiny bits of fluff that I don't like when Geoffrey M Cooper went well and above my expectations of the writing quality present in a first-time author of fiction.

Some other aspects of criticism that I should mention was the unfortunately amateurish introduction and writing regarding supporting casts of the story as it is of my humble opinion that as the senior post-doctoral researcher in Pam’s lab, George, could have played a more significant role as someone who supposedly perfected the vetting system used to perform the experiments and as someone who was almost always portrayed as a slightly goofy and friendly individual within the story. However, he had very little dialogue and presence at the end and his central character arc was not developed at all as he seemed to serve one purpose in the story: introduce conflict. Once his purpose was done, the narrative distance between Pam and George increased. The same could be said of Pam's ex-FBI boyfriend, who was essentially a PG-version of the Punisher, as a vigilante detective kicked out of the Bureau for going rogue during an operation just to rescue a fellow operative. Needless to say, he was almost a stereotype detective down to the very essence of his character as he roamed the streets taking in drug dealers and as the readers see him Batman his ways through any problem Pam presents to him. As a character, he was unrealistic and rather unappealing as we don't really see his human side in the story and quite lazy, to be frank. Jake, Pam's boyfriend, was introduced in the second act bringing in drug dealers and stuff for his old buddies and performing unrelated stake-outs just to show how much of a potential badass he is. Jake wasn't initially very relevant to the events of the story as he wasn't directly involved until it was essentially way too late and his presence in the story was very heavy-handed. Could there be any other way out of the mess that did not involve an ex-FBI boyfriend who happened to be a private investigator that just so happens to specialise in FBI stuff and divorce?

It should also be noted that the methods Pam applied to clear her name were certainly also not very ethical, and this puts a rather unfortunate damper on the whole moral story of the corrupt corporate scientist versus the virtuous moral scientist. There was definitely room for improvement for the author should choose to pursue the path of writing fiction int he future.

In conclusion, I rate this book a 3 out of 4 stars. It not only has a gripping storyline but seems to be professionally edited as well. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves well-written thrillers and exciting dramas where personal conflict was explored with meticulous detail. I give my praise to Dr. Cooper for writing with such passion and grace! I am looking forward to more books from this author.

******
The Prize
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The Prize
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Miriam Molina
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Post by Miriam Molina » 28 Jun 2018, 23:14

I love the medical thrillers of Dr. Robin Cook. I am expecting to enjoy this book as well. My mother had stroke-induced dementia; I would be interested in a cure for Alzheimer's Disease.

Thank you for your detailed analysis of the book, Yicheng Liu! I hope to read more from you. Enjoy OBC!

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Yicheng Liu
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Post by Yicheng Liu » 29 Jun 2018, 22:28

Miriam Molina wrote:
28 Jun 2018, 23:14
I love the medical thrillers of Dr. Robin Cook. I am expecting to enjoy this book as well. My mother had stroke-induced dementia; I would be interested in a cure for Alzheimer's Disease.

Thank you for your detailed analysis of the book, Yicheng Liu! I hope to read more from you. Enjoy OBC!
Thank you for the kind response, Miriam! I haven't read any medical thrillers by Dr. Robin Cook, but it's always nice to hear some book recommendations on the other end! I'm sorry about what happened with your Mother and I do hope there's a real-world cure for the Alzheimer's as well.

-Yicheng Liu

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Post by jcoad » 15 Aug 2018, 19:28

Thank you for your review. Sounds like a great idea for a story gone wrong. I appreciate your honest review and criticisms. I think I will pass on this book.

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Yicheng Liu
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Post by Yicheng Liu » 15 Aug 2018, 21:26

jcoad wrote:
15 Aug 2018, 19:28
Thank you for your review. Sounds like a great idea for a story gone wrong. I appreciate your honest review and criticisms. I think I will pass on this book.
Happy to help.

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Post by Julie Green » 16 Aug 2018, 01:22

I had a very similar response to you about this book. I agree that it is a surprisingly good read (I had low expectations too). I also felt disappointed that the supporting characters were too shallow. Nice review!

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Yicheng Liu
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Post by Yicheng Liu » 16 Aug 2018, 05:47

Julie Green wrote:
16 Aug 2018, 01:22
I had a very similar response to you about this book. I agree that it is a surprisingly good read (I had low expectations too). I also felt disappointed that the supporting characters were too shallow. Nice review!
Thank you! I hope the author writes more stories within the same genre.

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