Written during a highly prolific time in Michael Crichton’s career, and to support his medical studies, Drug of Choice is one of the eight novels that he wrote under the pseudonym of John Lange between 1966 and 1972.
Drug of Choice is not the deepest of novels, nor is it the longest or the most complicated, but what it does, it does well, although the build-up is let down by a slightly rushed denouement and too many gaping plot holes if it was to be studied academically.
Dr Roger Clarke is presented with two new patients. One a Hell’s Angel biker, the other an up and coming actress. They have little in common except for their symptoms, they are both comatose, and their urine is blue.
However, as he digs deeper, he comes into Advance Biosystems orbit and a lucrative job offer. He has tickets booked for a holiday in Mexico, but when his travel agent tells him about the newly opened Eden Island, his curiosity is piqued.
The island is in the middle of nowhere and is in the early stages of development, but as Clarke soon discovers, it offers the deepest desires of its guests through both drugs and suggestions from the staff. When his drugs wear off, Clarke discovers that Eden Island is actually just a rain-soaked place in the middle of the sea, the guests are all under the influence of the drugs, and there is no escape for him.
When the sound of a tuning fork controls things, Clarke discovers the science behind the drugs, and he also finds that while it can be used to benefit patients, the reverse is also true, as a painful episode shows later.
As things escalate, Clarke finds that he can no longer trust his friends, fellow medical practitioners, and his claims about a fantasy island will not be believed by the police. As the book ends, we find Clarke blowing up the buildings of Advance Biosystems.
Although Drug of Choice does not measure up to Crichton later works, such as Jurrasic Park, films like Twister, or televisual behemoth ER, it is a good experiment, blending elements of 1970’s Paranoid thriller, love story, crime thriller and medical drama.
Review by Ben Macnair
Published by Titan Books (19 Nov. 2013)
Paperback, ISBN 978-1783291236