August 30, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

medsMeds by Ray Garton


Ray Garton is another author I read a lot of when I was a horror buff, and another author I felt like I should return to in order to see if he’s as good as I remember. Meds came up as a random book to read, and it turns out to be one of his most recent novels. It also turns out to be a decent read, though it lacks a lot of depth.

The story is about the medical profession and its dependence on the pharmaceutical industry. Eli, the main character, is a recovered alcoholic who is on an antidepressant that helps him cope with his recovery. One day, he watches in horror as a man brutally beats a young mother and her child, and later he hears stories of a man who murdered his wife and child before committing suicide, and a man who entered a shopping mall with a shotgun and began firing. While he’s hearing all this news, he’s unable to refill his prescription for his antidepressant, which has a warning not to stop taking the medication abruptly. The story begins as he’s finding that his drug is unavailable anywhere in the state, and that he may become a threat to those around him if he stops taking it.

The story is pretty good, even though it takes a while to get going. Garton structures the story in such a way that it’s clear where the story is going to go, but he lets the story build up to its plot at the same pace as it would in real life. We know what’s going to happen, but we still have to watch the characters figure it out for themselves. In a way, it’s like the first season of Fear the Walking Dead, except that this book doesn’t suck.

The characters are well developed, with Eli and his fiancee, Chloe, having a relationship that drives the story. As Eli starts to slide into the downward spiral of his drug withdrawal, it’s easy to worry for him and root for him, even as he starts to do some questionable things, since we know he’s not completely responsible for his actions. The story moves quickly, enough so that as I neared the end of the novel, I knew I was going to be with it until it ended, bedtime be damned. The ease of reading and fast pace of the story reminded me of Bentley Little (without the sexism), though Garton has been at this much longer than Little.

That being said, Meds isn’t perfect. It relies too much on coincidence for some of the key plot points, and some of the characters acted out of their characterization at times. Plus, one of the key characters — a well-known retired journalist — gets involved with the investigation, and I wasn’t convinced that how he got involved was realistic. It was almost as if Garton needed someone like that in the story and introduced him without giving a reasonable rationale for it. There was a rationale, but it didn’t ring true to me. Also, the ending felt a little too pat, and a lot of things happened at the end that simply weren’t believable. I think Garton was trying too hard for a happy (-ish) ending here.

Reading this novel, it’s easy to believe that Garton has his own feelings about the prevalence of prescription drugs in medicine. He has a character in the story talk about how prescription drugs aren’t there to cure your ills, but to help you live with them. In some cases, prescription drugs are there to treat conditions that don’t exist, but that the drug companies want to convince consumers they have. There’s also the heavy marketing that pharmaceutical companies push on doctors to prescribe their medications, and that the high cost of prescription drugs is due to all of the factors that go into that marketing. It’s clear that Garton did a lot of research into the topic, and it makes me want to do some of my own to see if some of what he writes about is fact, because it’s disturbing.

Garton uses that argument as the theme for this novel, and while it adds some depth to the story, it doesn’t add enough to it to make it feel more like a beach read novel. Meds is entertaining to read, and encourages some thought outside of the story, but it’s not the most memorable of stories. It’s compelling and intriguing, and encourages me to keep Garton on my list of authors to revisit, but my guess is the story won’t stick with me very long.



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