Monday, September 20, 2010

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures - Vincent Lam

I remember at some point I was spurred to read this novel, but at the time of purchase I could not even begin to recall who had given me the idea. It has recently (in the last five minutes) dawned on me that it may have been myself who forced me to remember the title of Lam's novel, relating it to the HBO series that came after publication:

I desperately tried to like this novel. I had everything riding on it, from the interesting cover art to the mysterious title and on to the back cover blurb. All of it promised me stories that I was not ready for.

I will start with the positive. I found it interesting that in a world of medicine, there are many cases where emotion and personality need to come into the equation. The novel is divided into short stories, following the same four medical students as they begin their journey into the world of medicine in Toronto, Ontario. Ming, Fitzgerald, Sri and Chen are all widely different characters who are all thrust into situations that they may have studied for in school, but must blindly solve in the real world. The stories hold a degree of fascination as they move from the everyday realities of night-shifts and check-ups, into the complicated fields of mental illness, police brutality and nationwide sickness. As you move through the stories you are able to connect to the characters as they are pushed to their limits as doctors and as humans.

Or, at least you would be able to form a strong connection if their characters had been better developed. In my opinion, I was disappointed with the absence of plot-line in the lives of these four characters. The introductory story follows the bizarre relationship of Ming and Fitzgerald, but even with medicine taking a backseat to their love affair, Lam failed to establish interesting characters, even though they were given cookie-cutter personalities. Something failed to stick with them, so it was hard to grasp onto anything when I was reading the following stories documenting their careers. This made the ending especially anticlimactic, and the following summary did not seem to relate to anything the rest of the novel discussed. I just felt like it was unfinished.

I give this novel a 2/5. I really wanted to like it, and if you are a fan of medical stories or a less developed Grey's Anatomy, you may be able to find something desirable in the pages. For me, something was missing and I wasn't able to close the book with a degree of satisfaction. I could see the sitcom catching my attention more, so maybe I will give that a shot.


  1. Wow, I did not even know this was a failed HBO series. That's how poorly marketed it was. I've been told by many that this is a wonderful work of fiction, but based on your review, I don't know.

  2. i am just never sure about hospital drama. the stories were interesting, but i usually want to connect to the characters. with these ones they were just too flat for me to feel anything at all in the situations they were thrust in. too much was based on your emotional attachment and understanding of their personalities, but you were given hardly anything to work with.