Book Review: Pharmacology by Christopher Herz

Synopsis: 1993. San Francisco. The digital and pharmaceutical industries are booming. They're looking for the young, the hip, and those on the counterculture fringe to be both the face and consumer of their new world order. Recruited by an advertising agency focused on targeting a new drug to her own age demographic, Sarah Striker is grateful for the steady income, but she begins to question the side effects of the products she's pushing. Sarah begins publishing an underground zine to expose the secrets behind the pharmaceutical industry's aims. Fulfilled by her quest to spread the truth, her new life seems to be working out perfectly until she realises that she herself is perilously close to becoming a victim of this new corporate world.

Pages: 214

Rating: 4/10

Overall: An interesting look at the early digital boom and the drug industry. Bit too cynical for my taste, but has some colourful characters to fill the story.
It's been a while since I've done a book review, and this will actually be the first one of 2014! It's a bit bad that it took me til February to get one out isn't it... oh well.

I saw Pharmacology in the Kindle Daily Deal months ago and immediately decided to get it. Not because I'd heard anything about it or liked the sound of it, but because it's called pharmacology. My degree is in pharmacology, the study of drugs and medicine. So yeah, that was my reason.

It is certainly not my usual style of book. Pharmacology is about a girl, Sarah, who moves to 90s San Francisco to find a job that will help her provide money for her father's healthcare. When she arrives she moves in to a house share with, let's say an eclectic group of people. These people show her the seedier side of San Francisco, but also one of them leads her to a job in drug marketing. Sarah sees this as an opportunity, not only for good pay, but to give her insight and material for her homemade exposé on the drug industry. Along the way she sees the different sides to this big machine that is the drug industry and finds love in unexpected places.

The synopsis does not really tally with what this book is about; it feels like a sugar-coated synopsis. Pharmacology is a very cynical look at the drug industry. I don't know why I didn't expect that, but I didn't. I also didn't expect the heavy drug use, particularly in the first half of the book. I think the synopsis probably misdirected me as to what to expect here.

I almost think that Pharmacology is more a look at the impact of technology and the internet during the 90s than how drug companies got people to buy their stuff. It showcases the big digital boom that came from it. And the drug companies were just taking advantage of that. Not with the best of intentions though...

Sarah's character seemed a bit split, as in she was a character that was hard to predict. She also seemed to react with little emotion to things that happened around her unless it was to do with her father. I liked the aspect of her that she appeared to be bisexual, but that didn't seem to bring much colour to the story. She seemed to be a passive observer of her own life, even when she was doing the undercover exposé stuff.

The characters around Sarah are much more interesting. From drug addicts to hyperactive bosses, they bring the most colour to this story, and built up this mixing pot of the city that is San Francisco. I particularly liked Alberto, a messenger boy who was having to adapt to the new technological world where his line of work was becoming less and less useful. He falls in love with Sarah, who doesn't love him back, but is also willing to let her go when he realises that.

The writing style is quite clipped. Pronouns are often left of the start of sentences, giving a rather informal way of writing. It has a spoken-out-loud feel to it. I can't decide if I liked the clipped nature of it or not. Maybe I just don't mind it.

I did like this book. As a change from the norm, it was interesting. I found it a bit too cynical for my tastes, as someone who knows a little about how big pharma and drug discovery works. And the whole 90s technology was funny to barely remember.

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