3 out of 4 stars
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William H. Coles, MD is an experienced American writer of several fiction and non-fiction books and McDowell is one of his recent works published in 2015. It is a novel taking place in the USA mainly in the first years of 21st century without any science-fiction or fantasy elements. With regard to genre, it can be described as a mixture of adventure and some kind of a bildungsroman starting at late adulthood with tints of romance, thriller and tragedy.
McDowell follows the story of Hiram McDowell, an ambitious and successful but also selfish brain surgeon in his long-lasting rise and rapid fall. And though it starts with an egocentric brain surgeon in the Himalayas, this is not the story of a Marvel Superhero. No. Hiram McDowell is not an outstanding character at all, but rather someone dedicated to making mistakes all his life. Despite his unmatched success in his field, neither he and his family seem to benefit from the wealth and respect he has gained from his profession, no need to mention the money earned through other means including corruption. It can be said that the writer, being himself an ophthalmologist, knows much better about the conditions his colleagues live in; however, when seen from the viewpoint of most readers whose incomes are unmatchable to those of American doctors, this is rather too unrealistic. The writer tries to relate the characters’ lifestyle equaling to that of a middle-class family to Hiram McDowell's endless passion for climbing mountains, but this probably wouldn't persuade the common reader.
The story is comprised of two parts. The first part describes Hiram as a self-centered macho womanizer who is only focused on benefiting the most from people, and there is almost no mention of his relation to his patients, or students and very little is told about his research activities. Though the main character has too many rivals willing to bring him down, he does indeed ruin his life himself by committing a crime that someone of his age and intelligence would certainly avoid as it could easily be estimated that such a crime wouldn’t go unnoticed by the law enforcement. The first part ends with McDowell having ruined the lives of both himself and his family. The second part begins as Hiram starts a new life as a criminal, trying to evade laws and survive. His further encounters with various people changes his personality to a better, more mature and more giving one. However, the laws are not interested in his personal development, and he continues to run throughout the rest of the book.
The main storyline can be described as an interesting one. It is well structured and has sudden twists to surprise the reader. Though the very ending is abrupt, it is not totally unexpectable. On the other hand, side-stories contribute well to the reading experience. The characters are readily absorbable by the reader. The author has also included characters from his former books. While the writer mainly narrates the personal development of Hiram McDowell, he also tells how other people such as Hiram’s daughter Sophie and son Billie, as well as Paige Sterling, a TV journalist have changed with their own experiences.
The story is narrated from third person omniscient. Thoughts of the characters are displayed either in brackets or in italics. Foul language is occasionally used. The book is rich in vocabulary, able to prompt even a native English speaker to make a dictionary check upon encountering some of the rarely used words. The narration suddenly switches on occasions from simple past to present tense without warning, and even from formal language to an irregular slang in one part of the book. The book is poorly edited; typos are frequent in the first and last 100 pages and there are logical errors particularly in chapters 1 and 2. The error in chapter 1 is that, while this part of the book takes place in 1999, the narration in the beginning of the chapter tells that Hiram's second wife died in 1999 and he wed his third 2 years later, which should be 2001. However, it’s later said that he is already married to his third and the year is 1999, not 2001. The error in chapter 2 is that, Hiram has an iPhone in 1999, which has been introduced to the market in 2007. Alright, has this been a Sci Fi book about time hipsters, that would be okay, but it is not, and these errors are not acceptable.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Has it been a well-edited one, it could have deserved 4 stars.
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