Book Chat 38 Josh Bazell/Beat the Reaper
Evil Editor said...Possibly it's just my cynical sense of humor, but I loved this book.
stacy said...I did, too.
fairyhedgehog said...Hi everyone! I found the book a bit gory but I enjoyed quite a lot of it.
Evil Editor said...I don't mind gory when it involves sharks.
stacy said...I didn't even think about that. He managed to get sharks in there. No wonder EE loved this book. : ) There were parts that made me laugh out loud. I don't have the book with me, but one exchange I loved was
"Okay. Who else?"
vkw said...Hi Stacy. I loved this book too and I can get pretty cynical sometimes too. However, my favorite people are cynical people. I have friends that could have written this book. Can't wait to send it to one of them. I loved how fast-paced it was.
Sylvia said...I really enjoyed the book too. He was great as a personality. Larger than life but flawed enough that it didn't feel unbelievable.
Evil Editor said...I read it in early April, so I don't recall much in the way of specifics. My one complaint was that it didn't seem reasonable that the guy could drive to Illinois and choose a random motel and still be found almost immediately.
stacy said...I did find it a tad bit unbelievable that the MC and Magdelena (sp?) could spend an entire night in a shark tank without getting eaten. I know her brother was, but it seems to me those sharks would get hungry after an hour or two.
Evil Editor said...The sharks are probably well-fed to begin with. They toss in a cow every day or two.
Sylvia said...The hospital scenes were very scary. I agree the shark tank scene was a bit much - but by then I was so into the book, I didn't care.
fairyhedgehog said...I didn't think the shark tank was much more unrealistic than the whole mafia background, and than someone who'd killed people being on the witness relocation scheme and managing to train as a doctor. Maybe it could all happen but it seemed fairly unlikely to me.
vkw said...I didn't have problems with the sharks. They probably are well fed, but then I don't know. I always thought someone could walk through a lion's exhibit at the zoo without being attacked - as long as they didn't deliberately aggravate the lion. I'm not sure that is true anymore.
Dave Fragments said...I'm here and I like the book but I'll be about ten minutes of half changing an electric socket
Evil Editor said...How do you half change an electric socket?
vkw said...I thought the author was a genius. I have decided never to be hospitalized.
stacy said...I did love the cynicism, though it did make me glad I haven't been admitted to a hospital in a long time.
Evil Editor said...I don't doubt that everything that goes on in this hospital has gone on in some hospital, but to have it all going on in one hospital was hilarious. And scary, if the author convinced you it's commonplace.
vkw said...Remember the part with the girl with the brain infection from the tongue piercing? this was one of the many moments in the book where I went, "where does the author come up with this stuff?"
Dave Fragments said...I've seen some wild things in hospitals but this is beyond reality. It was lots of fun to read about that messed up a place.
Evil Editor said...Also funny are the game on the author's website, and the three trailers for the book.
Sylvia said...I will look at the author's website this afternoon, I hadn't thought to look it up.
fairyhedgehog said...I was mostly enjoying the book but I was left a bit flat by the ending. I think I must be missing something there.
stacy said...I felt the same way, Fairy. But ultimately I didn't care. The writing was too good. The tongue-piercing thing made me wonder if that's actually happened. Just one of those things the tongue-piercing parlors don't want you to know about . . .
vkw said...To Stacy - I am not sure about tongue piercing but I know tooth infections can lead to brain infections. Some historians have theorized that humans used to die a lot from tooth infections. I have seen tooth infections gone really, really bad - all the way up the sinus cavities. (worked with homeless population once)
stacy said...Yike, vkw. I'm making a dentist appointment straight away. !!! I hope my dentist won't be as cynical as the doc in the book.
Sylvia said...I just liked the narrator and how much I was cheering for someone that was clearly the villain in someone else's novel. Although also, I was well impressed with the way he used tenses. So I was on the author's side.
vkw said...The hospital stuff was amazing. Nice contrast to ER. I hope a movie is made of this book. I don't like "slap" (like hangover) comedies or "romantic" comedies but smart, cynical comedies I love.
Evil Editor said...Great footnotes, too.
Sylvia said...The footnotes were actually interesting - I didn't spot them at first. A clear downside of reading on the Kindle. Once I did, I had to backtrack through the first quarter of the book to find them all.
Dave Fragments said...I did like the footnotes in that they added a level of sarcasm to the already funny situations.
vkw said...Loved the footnotes
stacy said...The backstory about the grandparents turned out to be a little chilling.
vkw said...Is the stuff about auswithch true? Does anyone know? And I felt creepy reading that part.
Dave Fragments said...I worked out the Grandparents the instant the old polish woman said that two teenagers killed her brother so many years before. Immediately I thought collaborators.
stacy said...I knew it was the grandparents, too, but for some reason I thought they killed him for revenge. Which doesn't make sense, really. if they were Jews and escaped they would have just run for it.
vkw said...Also, I am sure Dave is going to jump on me for my naivete, but is there really this much open Jewish prejudice in Europe, Poland? To the point the MC saw it and heard it everywhere?
Sylvia said...I didn't see the grandparents backstory coming at all, to be honest. I was less than crazy with the whole "you have to kill someone to get in and old people are easy" logic, though.
Evil Editor said...I'd have been perfectly happy without the Nazis and the sharks and Illinois, just set the whole thing in the hospital. But none of that bothered me. It felt like I was getting the inside story. Like the guy was telling WikiLeaks what goes on in medicine.
stacy said...I did too, EE. Although I see it with how my mom is treated whenever she's in the hospital.
Evil Editor said...The fact that your mom's gone into the hospital more than once and is still alive means it's not as bad as the author would have us believe.
Dave Fragments said...I was in rehab for nearly 5 months many years and then 6 weeks a few years later. Hospitals are crazy but never that bad.
Evil Editor said...They do try to keep you as comfortable as possible until they kill you.
vkw said...One problem I had was why a famous doctor would operate in a charity hospital. 'cause I would think if you could get a doctor like that, you could also arrange for a better hospital. I was going to go back to see if the author explained that but didn't have a chance.
Evil Editor said...Maybe this IS one of the better hospitals. Ever think of that?
Dave Fragments said...Famous doctors really are head cases like that. huge walking egos that want to be worshiped by all involved. I've met and insulted a few in my life. There are cases of skewered spleens that never end in malpractice suits. Major surgery like that is hard to prove malpractice. But I've known colonostomies that ended in really ugly deaths.
stacy said...I'm not saying they're bad; I'm saying they're bad because they're so cynical. You know that egotistical doctor who screwed up the surgery in the book? That basically happened to my mom. She had knee surgery, which actually went fine, but the doctor who performed the surgery refused to contact my mom's cardiologist to find out what pain meds my mom could actually take. Then she overprescribed a pain med, causing internal bleeding. My mom went to the ER, telling everyone the pain was in her groin (where it turned out she was bleeding internally), not her knee, but no one would listen—including the doc who performed the surgery. So she was sent home to bleed internally some more, until she finally went into renal kidney failure. Only then was she admitted to the hospital. Then she contracted a staph infection that had to be stopped before it spread to her heart. I think that's why I liked the hospital parts of this book so much. It hit exactly the tone I've dealt with in hospitals, and how egotism and cynicism can be what screws up the patient. I think most in the health profession are compassionate. But it only takes one.
vkw said...Stacy - I am sorry that happened to your mother.
fairyhedgehog said...I think I'd prefer to believe that hospitals aren't really that bad but stacy's experience kind of goes against that! I'm sorry your mother had such a wretched time, stacy. I must admit my own experience is of some pretty dodgy doctors and they don't all seem to mind if they hurt you. I'm not sure what some of them think anaesthetics are for.
Dave Fragments said...I have a few stories like that but most of the time, doctors and nurses aren't this egotistically cavalier and things go well. This was exceptional and I think it was done for the book. If you read the notes, he wrote this in the down times while finishing med school and doing an internship. So he's writing the commentary to skewer the stupidity that we all know is internship. Doctors are real stupid about pain. I scream at doctors first when I know they are going to hurt me.
Evil Editor said...Yikes, Stacy. Any opinions I get from doctors in a hospital, I'm getting a second opinion from House. Of course the trouble with House is that he never gets it right on the first try. Plus you always end up spewing blood out of at least one orifice before he figures out what's wrong with you. And you have to count on the right thing happening in his personal life to bring out the truth about your case. Like, his guitar breaks a string and he has an epiphany: My patient must have Lupus!
stacy said...LOL, EE! That's true of real-life docs, too, I think. I haven't seen much of House, but doesn't he always get the rare, hard-to-figure-out cases? Like an unproven disease that was documented once in an obscure medical journal in 1969?
Evil Editor said...House is in the Diagnostics dept. He gets the cases the other doctors can't figure out, theoretically. Mostly he takes the cases that interest him. It's a funny show. House is almost as cynical as this guy.
stacy said...I'll have to check it out, EE. I've heard nothing but good things about it.
Dave Fragments said...House is unreal. He's so screwed up personally.
Sylvia said...My favorite review: "Beat The Reaper" by Josh Bazel is what I imagine you'd get if Quentin Tarantino had written House M.D.
vkw said...Sylvia - brilliant. Maybe we need a "Beat the Reaper" television show
Dave Fragments said...Years ago, the FIRESIGN THEATER (a radio comedy group) did a fake gaem show called Beat The Reaper -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3zZ_ih0Jpc
Dave Fragments said...I must admit the sheer outrageousness of the story drew me far enough into it so that I wanted to read the ending.
vkw said...the outrageousness of the book is what may it readable/enjoyable to me. It was kind of a guilty pleasure to chuckle and enjoy images that normally would make me cringe - and ultimately stop reading a book. I am not into gore or presenting crimes as anything but criminal - even with rationalization.
fairyhedgehog said...Maybe that's what made mafia-hitman turned doctor believable: they both believe they have rights of life or death over people.
Evil Editor said...Apparently if your voice is captivating enough, it doesn't matter how outlandish your story is. Readers will go along for the ride.
Sylvia said...I think that is true. This author is excellent and the book was not dashed off. I found myself going backwards a few times thinking "how did he pull that off"
Dave Fragments said...I enjoyed reading this only took three days in between all the other stuff I had to do. It's a fast read.
vkw said...it was a fast read since it took me so long to decide to read it to join this chat. My problem is I have so many books on my shelf to read, it's hard for me to rationalize getting another book. But EE's recommendation made it worth it - I didn't he would lead me wrong on purpose.
Evil Editor said...Sorry, I was off at the Firesign Theater link. Pretty funny, especially as most Firesign Theater stuff is funny only when you're on drugs . . . I've heard.
Dave Fragments said...I remember the comedy routine of Beat the Reaper from the first time i heard in on the radio. This book is written in that same kinda drugged out and spacy realm of anything can happen. The only thing that nagged me was how fast he seemed to go from ignorant goomba and paid killer to medical person capable of surgery. That's a lot of real genius-y type brainpower waste.
vkw said...so what is the take away from this? outrageous stories with good voices work?
Evil Editor said...Most stories are outrageous in one way or another. Good writing works, and voice is an important part of it.
Sylvia said...The writing was superb, I don't think he could have sold us on the character if the story telling ability hadn't been so good.
Evil Editor said...I read a customer review on Amazon that called it the funniest crime fiction debut since Robert Crais's first book. This makes me want to read Robert Crais's books. Has anyone read him? He seems to win a lot of awards.