Title:
Coma
Author: Robin Cook
        Title: Coma
        Publisher: Signet
        Year of Publication: 1977
        Movie: "Coma" by MGM in 1978
        Type of book: Medical Drama
        I chose Coma because I enjoyed A Case of Need by Michael Crichton and wanted
 to read another medical thriller. My friend recommended this book to me because it is in a
similar style as Michael Crichton books, which she knew I enjoy very much.
II. Plot Summary
        When Nancy Greenley's routine D&C; medical operation is nearing completion, the
anesthetist reports strange fibrillations of the heart. Her brain stops responding and she does
not emerge from her sleep ever again. Such a minor surgical operation could never place the
patient in such a deep coma. The doctors are baffled. Susan Wheeler is a young medical
student working at the Boston Memorial Hospital. She is one of a group of students under the
direction of Mark Bellows, the head intern. She finds out about Nancy Greeley's misfortune and
becomes deeply interested in the cause of her death, for reasons of both sympathy and
curiosity. She does extensive research, but to very little avail. She then meets a patient who is
being given surgery of the knee. He later suffers the same fate as Greenley: he falls into an
irreversible coma. Susan notices that the deaths both happened in OR 8, so she investigates
further. She later finds a carbon monoxide gas line running from a small hidden tank in the
boiler room to the oxygen gas line in OR 8. The deadly gas is meant to kill the patients. Little
does she know that she has stepped in the way of a very big company's business: supplying
black market organ transplants to rich buyers.
III. Differences between the book and its movie version
        A movie was released the year after this book's publication with the same title. I think
that, although much less informative, the movie was better than the book. Many of the devices
used by Cook become repetitive and annoying, devices that cannot be shown in the movie. In
the book, whenever a character does  rapid brainwork or expresses strong emotion, he
describes in clinical terms the brain processes involved. Although this is interesting the first few
times that it appears, it grows old quickly.
        Much like Michael Crichton's work, Coma is full of informative sidelights that do not
move on the plot but are there as interesting tidbits meant to spark the reader's interest. I
generally enjoy these, but there seemed to be too many of them here and they were out of
place. For example, there is a passage where an anesthetist injects a drug into a patient in a
mad rush to revive him. The book describes the drug as "yet another debt we owe to the good
people of the Amazon region." There is a fine line between interesting bits of medical
information and pointless facts! This was particularly irrelevant at such an exciting time. The
movie, of course, did not have these medical references and moved along much more
smoothly. It was rather short, and much of the events of the first half of the book were
condensed. The screenplay-writer (who just happened to be Michael Crichton) got rid of the
other five students with whom Susan has long conversations, and made Mark and Susan
lovers (while in the book Mark shows attraction to her; no more). These simplifications were
made because the movie would have seemed tedious otherwise.
        The plot of both the book and movie were absolutely riveting, and the end of the
movie was particularly frightening. I think that this movie was a very accurate and legitimate
rendition of the original work.
IV. Evaluation
        Although long-winded at times, Coma was an enjoyable, fast, read. As long as the
reader does not let himself get bogged down in the complex medical terminology, the story
comes out very vividly. I would recommend this book to any fan of medical suspense stories
and to any Michael Crichton fan who read A Case of Need and enjoyed it.
Thank you.
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