on 26 January 2011
As a huge fan of the writing of Harlan Coben, I bought this believing that it was his latest novel. As I waded through the turgid prose and unbelievable plot, I realised something was wrong. I now find that it was written four yeara before his first Myron Bolitar story. I don't know what happened during those years, but he certainly became a different, more mature writer. I would suggest that you buy this for curiosity's sake, but be warned, it is 20 years old and clearly the product of a young writer taking his first step. If you are new to his work, either start with the first of the Bolitar series or one of his other novels such as "No Second Chance."
on 22 March 2011
I should prefix this review by saying I am a Harlan Coben fan and have read all his books, and that this review is based on the unabridged audio version. The fact that I bought it as an audio book download meant that I didn't see that it was an old book being republished before I bought it. This was the second book he wrote after Play Dead. If I had known I may have avoided it. I read and reviewed Play Dead and said it is for completists only. Well the same is true here. This one is really awful. Since I bought it, (from Amazon's sister company Audible), it has disappeared from their catalogue and from Amazon's list of other formats available. I would like to think it was on grounds of taste, but more likely a timing error in releasing the unabridged audio before the hardback publication has led to it being withdrawn temporarily.
In Coben's later works and particularly the Myron Bolitar series you know the characters are ridiculous but they are fun nonetheless. They really are caricatures. (You doubt me? Run through the C.V.s of Myron, Win, or the female ex tag team wrestlers who work for him. 'Nuff Said?) Despite this you get the impression the author is treating it as light hearted and enjoying the joke WITH the readers. In this book and in Play Dead he comes across as laughing AT his audience.
The author Jasper Fforde in his parody of cop/private eye genre, The Big Over Easy, said that the crime writers' guild got together and outlawed a number of plot devices, e.g. the long lost twin, as no longer permissible for a thinking audience. If only Mr. Coben had signed up to the resolution he might have avoided the equally outdated and overdone theme he forces on the reader here.
POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD SKIP NEXT PARAGRAPH TO AVOID.
SURELY the mad scientist would have to be close to the top of the list of outlawed plots. The totally unsurprising ending to this book would have been right at home in an overacted 1950s B-movie. So bad it was beyond laughable. If you ever saw the film Carry On Screaming, itself a parody, think of Kenneth Williams' manic monster creator and you will get an idea of how this pans out. In addition of course, you just know that the Myron prototype who is the 'hero' of this book is not going to be allowed to die no matter how many misdirections are thrown into the plot line.
I would say this is the worst Harlan Coben ever. Given the author's explanation regarding Play Dead, and the fact that he acknowledged its flaws, and gave a clear warning that it was not for new readers, it was just about acceptable to allow it to be republished. Unfortunately I can't give the same dispensation to Miracle Cure. This seems like cynical attempt to cash in on his later success. Once again, buyer beware.
This was the first Harlan Coben I have picked up. I understand he has an excellent reputation as a thriller writer. However, I think I made the wrong choice of book. Coben has himself written a short foreward note in which he advises the reader not to read this as a first novel choice. He tells us that 'Miracle Cure' was a very early work, written in 1991 or so, that hadn't been published in the UK before, and described it as a 'bit preachy in parts' and 'flawed', and if this was the first of his novels one had picked up, to stop, put it down and come back to it later. Wow, candid stuff! Reading between the lines he might just of said more economically 'this book is not very good'. Well, I wouldn't disagree with him too much, although it was by no means terribly bad either. The plotting involves a search for a cure for HIV, and conspiracies around a research clinical that may have found such a cure. The book looks at attitudes to HIV infected individuals and homosexuals, and is where the book looks a little dated. Actually, attitudes have moved on so much that looking back it's difficvult to recall that some of the views expressed by characters in the book were still prevailing even in the early 1990's. However, the real weaknesses of the book are that it is all a bit sensationalist and incredible. Many of the characters are two dimensional or very cliched, and the book is rather corny in places. Coben clearly didn't understand the difference between a drug and a vaccine. The two lead female characters were particularly unbelievable, although I'm still considering whether the delightful Sara or the darker vampish Cassandra were the more ridiculous of the two. Anyway, the book did make me want to read on, despite the fact I couldn't suspend disbelief. I would probably have enjoyed this much more twenty years ago but I would certainly pick up another of his books.
Author Harlan Coben has inserted a signed note in the front of this new printing of "Miracle Cure" that urges readers who haven't read any of his other books to put this book down immediately. He goes on to critique the story and explain that it's one of his first novels. I respect his honesty and wish that I had taken his advice about trying another book.
The book has a lot of problems. The storyline, which revolves around the HIV/AIDS crisis and the search for a cure, is badly dated. It includes a debate about the morality of AIDS sufferers where more than one person posits that they contract the disease because of they are gay or drug users and totally omits any reference to the millions of non-drug using heterosexual victims of the disease worldwide. This was a known problem even in 1991 when this novel was written.
"Miracle Cure" includes a serial killer and a high-level conspiracy to torpedo research being done to develop a vaccine to stop AIDS. Those elements are the book's greatest strengths although the conspiracy angle is never fully resolved at book's end. The novel's characters--a pro basketball player, a popular TV journalist, politicians, scientists and assorted family members--had interesting possibilities, but they are not really fully developed. The one exception is the serial killer who is described in careful detail, but ultimately becomes nothing more than a device to further the storyline.
Author Corben in his opening warning about the book states that for all of the book's flaws, he still admires it for its energy and risk-taking. I don't share that view. This just isn't very good writing. So why reprint it now? The publisher must have seen a way of squeezing some extra bucks out of the author's present reputation as one of the most successful writers of popular fiction. It's a shame that Coben didn't at least insist on revising some of the weakest parts of the book.
on 6 September 2011
I'm not sure why Harlan Coben has released both this and 'Play Dead', he surely can't need the money. Perhaps it is an act of self-deprecation to show he was not always the writer of great novels but originally churned out tedious, overblown,ridiculous and poorly researched claptrap which makes Colin Forbes look like a contender for the Booker Prize. What makes the two books even more tired and lazy is that the disclaimer at the beginning, which basically says, 'Don't blame me if this is rubbish, I was only young and I knew nothing back then', is basically the same in each book with the different titles inserted at the appropriate place.
All that aside what makes this book particularly awful is the bad science, improbable plot line and inadvertent homophobia. Firstly he continually talks about his characters becoming HIV positive and therefore have AIDS. Even twenty years ago this was known not to be true but even if he had poorly researched the medical information back then it was a mistake to allow it to be printed today without correction. People can live for years being HIV positive without getting full blown AIDS and the misinformation contained in this book is damaging. Secondly there is very little reference to heterosexual contraction of the HIV virus which is now the biggest method of spreading the disease and very much a cause for serious concern once again. There is currently talk of conducting a further multi-million pound campaign to counter the increase of heterosexually contracted HIV. The other sad aspect in this book is that, because he ignores the heterosexual element because it does not fit with his fanciful plot, he actually locks into and perpetuates the homophobia his book seeks,unsuccessfully,to speak out against. Taking into account the denouement (which I will not spoil even though it is pretty stupid) I was left unsure whether it was his intention to criticise the bigot's view of homosexuality and HIV or endorse it.
Having worked in AIDS research and public information long before this tripe was written I am all to familiar with the actions of right wing, fundamentalist Christian organisations in America who sought to destroy research which could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. When I was working for the W.H.O. in Africa they received (along with dozens of other organizations) very professionally produced CD-ROMs which claimed to contain valuable information and research into the disease which could save hundreds of thousands of lives. Instead it injected a virus into any computer system it was installed in which wiped out all stored data, not only on AIDS but all other research contained. The resultant meltdown destroyed an unimaginable amount of data and set the research back years. Even back then, however, it was well known that, although homosexual activity along with that if intravenous drug use, was a major contributory factor in the spread of the disease, it's spread and grip on Africa was down to heterosexual contamination. The homosexual community quickly addressed the situation but heterosexuals, particularly males, sadly did not. This was all fairly well known when this tacky little novel was written and universally recognised by the time it was released twenty years later. I genuinely worry about what damage this dated and inaccurate book could now cause. Maybe not that much if the book is not widely read but it's release is, none-the-less, irresponsible and unnecessary..... especially bearing in mind that it is a poorly written book anyway with clichéd and unimaginative characters and unbelievable storyline.
on 25 September 2011
You must appreciate that this is Coben's first novel released some 20 years later. The maturity of later books may be missing but the essential story of corruption around a cure for AIDS which 20 years on has still to arrive makes for a good read. Worthwhile but do not expect Myron Bolitar. Others have criticised the characterisation but in many ways some of the characters in this early work are more believable and rounded than the somewhat cardboard cut out characters (however enjoyable) of later books by Coben.
on 9 August 2013
I knew this was an old Harlan Coben book pre-dating the Bolitar stories but I was curious to read as I have always liked Coben's style of writing. Unfortunately Miracle Cure was not a book that gripped me; in fact it initially bored me though an overcooked plot and surprisingly shallow characters. It does come to life towards the end and picks up to a good pace with a nice twist - this was enough to redeem an extra star. The plot itself centres on the search for a cure for AIDS which riles a group of influential (& homophobic) businessmen as money is diverted from cancer research. It would seem that the AIDS research is on the brink of a breakthrough and likely to retain funding but then all the `cured' patients are murdered one by one along with a key research scientist. The focus is on a crippled journalist married to a top basketball star, who is diagnosed as HIV positive - his life (literally) depends on finding out who is behind the murders. This task fall to a very able Police detective (who also happens to be gay) - easily the strongest character in the book. This would have been very topical when it was written but is now very dated and just not that exciting.
on 21 October 2013
When I finished reading this book at 120 in the morning I lay there for half hour thinking about the book. What had occurred and the twists and turns. If this is not a sign of a good book I don't know what is.
The book has all the normal twists and turns which makes Coben such an amazing author. The twists continue throughout the book with no rest and this is what keeps you engaged as a reader. There are links throughout the book to previous novels, which I believe is the authors way of rewarding the loyal fans. I like these little quirks which means that new readers can still enjoy the books but the old faithful fans get little rewards looking for the connections. It makes me want to go back and read the earlier books to see what I have missed in them.
The fast moving pace, the twists and turns and the constant action has meant that Harlan Coben is fast becoming a favourite of mine. If you haven't read any of his offerings I urge you to have a look you will not be disappointed. Another excellent read.
on 4 July 2012
Authors should be discouraged from digging around in their desk drawer for the first book they ever wrote. There is a reason it wasn't published back then! If this had been the first book I ever read by Mr Coben, I would never have read anything else. I have always enjoyed his oeuvre and was deeply disappointed by this. I felt cheated.
on 10 August 2012
This is only the second HC that I have read, and actually I really liked it. The plot develops slowly, and builds to an intriguing and faster-paced crescendo. The main storyline of a research clinic which may have found a cure for AIDS, and the groups/individuals who may or may not wish to see it succeed, is an interesting scenario.
Sara and Michael are an appealing couple, and I rather liked the main investigating officer, Max. The hired assassin was horrible, but that's good, isn't it? If I had to suspend belief a little whilst reading, well isn't that what one has to do with many novels, it's called escapism? The writing is good, and I kept on reading until the end because I wanted to know how it would end. And it ended with a surprise, which is a good thing in my book.