I was sent a copy of Christopher Herz’s Pharmacology to review on FanaticSpace. After reading it, I’m not sure why. Most of the reviews on the site are genre fiction of some kind, but I couldn’t say what genre this story could be. It seems to be an attempt at literary fiction.
Perhaps it was my love of Ready Player One, because Pharmacology deals with a certain amount of nostalgia.
The problem is that RP1 did nostalgia right, with explanations of the more obscure references. I’m not sure if Pharmacology did anything right. It certainly didn’t do anything for me, other than annoy and make me wonder if there was supposed to be a point.
Was Not Impressed With Character Voice
The most annoying bit was the way the narration was structured. Sure, a bit of personality is a good thing with first person perspective. I can completely understand why the author chose to give the narrator a distinctive voice, I just couldn’t stand how it was done.
Was very hard to read. Had to re-read a lot of the sentences several times. Couldn’t make sense of them otherwise. Wouldn’t think dropping a leading pronoun would do so much damage. (For example.)
I think my enjoyment of the story would have been greatly improved if that had been restricted to dialog.
Unfortunately, while that was the the most annoying problem that I had with Pharmacology, it wasn’t the only one.
Story Structure and Character Growth
Problems with sentence structure made it difficult to read, but problems with story structure are what ultimately killed this book for me. The synopsis on the back describes, what sounds like, an interesting story. That description is flawed, because it focuses on a small part of the story that doesn’t really amount to much. I think that’s more of a marketing problem though. The real problem is a meandering narrative and lack of character growth.
At one point the main character flat out says she learned something, and then proceeds to make the same mistake. Not only does that go against the rule of “show, don’t tell”, it highlights the lack of character growth.
The only differences the events of the story seemed to have on the main character are the size of her bank account and the kind of cheese she puts on her sandwich.
Random Lyrics, Not Just For Fan Fiction Anymore!
The addition of lyrics placed seemingly at random wouldn’t have been so bad if it was consistent. It wasn’t. There was only one piece of narrative where a block of lyrics would have been appropriate, and they weren’t included.
In that scene the main character mentions a name that always reminds her of a song. Not only are the lyrics not included, the name of the song isn’t even mentioned.
I can’t recommend Pharmacology in any way. Lack of growth combined with difficult to read prose is bad enough. Add to that the author’s apparent assumption that every reader is going to share his knowledge and you have a recipe for a book with a very narrow readership.
The only good thing I can say about Pharmacology is that it’s short.