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By John B. Olson
Bethany House
PB, 304 pg. US$12.99
ISBN: 0-7642-2819-6

Pure adrenaline?

By Linda A. Prussen-Razzano
web posted December 8, 2003

AdrenalineAdrenaline, Christy Award winning author Dr. John B. Olson's latest novel, makes for a much more exciting screenplay than a novel. Action abounds in this fast moving work, with enough enticement to keep the pages turning and the scenes screaming past at a rollercoaster rate. From the first compelling lab scene to the dramatic climax, Adrenaline has it all: car chases, burning buildings, love twists, and deadly things that go bump in the night. If an easy read with some interesting medical twists is your style, Adrenaline will be a perfect fit.

James Parker, the protagonist and central character of the novel, is likable, believable, and, given his difficulties, very sympathetic. He's discovered a cure for muscular dystrophy, a disease that he knows all too well, except that the cure -- adrenaline 355 -- has bizarre side effects. Jason Shanahan, a pivotal character, is the most daring, intriguing, and one will laugh out loud at his aplomb; however, Darcy Williams, the heroine, is altogether unlikable and wholly inconsistent. While her inconsistency appears to be an intrinsic part of the storyline, it is not consistent with the general framework of the character and falls flat. Several supporting characters were reduced to caricatures, due to neglect in overall development.

Ultimately, I was left wanting more. Olson is obviously a talented enough writer that he could have plumbed a number of the book's topics fully and completely, while still holding the reader's interests. Instead of James Cameron, a little Herman Melville would have been more appropriate.

Olson presumes the reader has a certain depth of knowledge, giving only cursory explanations to some of the medical conditions, scene locations, scientific developments, or additional trappings. This presumption provides a basic framework that allows the uninformed to follow the story, but not necessarily take any new knowledge away from it. Those entrenched in the sciences will probably breathe a sigh of relief at not having to relive medical school, but for the millions who are not, more detail was desired.

Finally, I was left wanting more of the characters, themselves. Only Parker has enough substance that one could anticipate his reactions, could empathize with his situation, and could care enough about him to reread scenes for the pure enjoyment of it. Olson doesn't need to be verbose to be poignant; Parker's longing for Darcy is a credible and tangible ache throughout. But far too often, Olson is painfully brief, letting the reader peak into the windows of Parker's soul without ever truly inviting one in to visit.

If I seem particularly picky, there is a reason. Instead of being just a good, quick read, Adrenaline had the potential to be a fabulous read – the kind of novel that book lovers keep on their shelves, dust off every now and again, and read anew. Instead of hastening the reader to the end of a topsy-turvy, chase and be chased trip, Olson should have slowed down several times to smell the roses, and let us revel in some unfolding, majestic scenery.

Linda Prussen-Razzano is frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and a number of other online magazines.

Buy Adrenaline at Amazon.com for only $10.39 (20% off)

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