jo's Reviews > Heat Shock

Heat Shock by Robert Greer
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Sep 22, 09

bookshelves: african-american, mystery-thriller, us-regional
Read in September, 2009

i think what i liked best about this book was the setting, and the lazy/cool writing writers adopt when they talk about the west. inevitably, westerns are dominated by the land and the scape and the vegetation. the west seems so wonderfully varied. the dry air gets its time in the sun, too, and the heat, and the night chill.

the protagonists of this medical mystery (robert greer is a doctor, among other things -- his bio is mind boggling) are an old gamecock raiser (male, white), a young white-water guide (male, white), and a young ER physician (female, amerasian -- daughter of a black vietnam soldier and a vietnamese woman). the ER doctor, who used to be an academic oncologist before her high ethical standards earned her the displeasure of her colleagues, is a fierce chick who rides a number of motorcycles (including a perfectly kept indian antique) and does her own maintenance. no one in this book is a weakling.

the story is about some baddies who are into genetic manipulation and will do anything to succeed in their evil purposes, including endangering the lives of a dozen of navajo (who else?) guinea pigs as if they were less than animals.

the plot, in fact, is the weakest element of the book. it didn't grab me much and it had a few too many holes. but i was tickled by the physicality of the writing -- the harsh, beautiful land, the many physical confrontations, but also a certain muscularity in the words and sentences, and smoothness, a great ease with slang and technical language of all kinds of disciplines (from white water rafting to cock fighting to science to medicine).

when language is precise it takes me away. greer's language is intensely precise. he covers the natural element along with the human element with great relish for details. he talks about motorcycles, trucks, the paraphernalia of scientific research, illness, the molecular structure of the body, vietnamese culture, the horror of vietnam, navajo life, western food, and so on and so forth in a way that makes you feel in good hands. this unfailingly mesmerizes me.

he also tackles a number of big issues, from scientific research to the doomed life of indians. it seems to me to work well, not ever to become heavy. perhaps the most touching of all these issues is the plight of vietnam survivors of both sides of the conflict.

i admire writers, especially male writers, who are sensitive to the insidiousness of genderized writing. greer is as attent to gender as he is to race. major brownie points.

i don't see a huge following for this talented african-american on goodreads. i wonder why that is.
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