Charles J. Keffer
[Coma] is an absolutely fascinating story!…
Robin Cook is a doctor and an excellent writer of suspense fiction. I was on the edge of my seat through most of it. All of the technical terms and procedures are here and they add to the reader's involvement in the story even though he or she may not know the difference between halothane and succinylcholine. Having a woman as the protagonist allows the author to provide an interesting perspective on women and careers. Finally, I do not think anyone can beat the suspense and the story line developed throughout this novel. It is so close to the truth that one has to reinvestigate the title page to be sure that it really did say "A novel by Robin Cook."
Charles J. Keffer, "Fiction: 'Coma'," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1977 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 37, No. 3, June, 1977, p. 67.
(The entire section is 145 words.)
[Dr. Robin Cook in Coma] writes convincingly, compellingly, of a black market in human organs. Having concluded that he could turn out a best-seller by "dissecting" dozens of suspense and mystery novels, Cook has quite methodically packed his own novel with other authors' tricks, and sometimes the formulaic quality detracts from the book's quickening excitement. But by and large this is a horror story of the first order …, and it strikes to the core of many people's queasiness about the current debate as to when death occurs…. In his final "Author's Note," Dr. Cook makes plain his own antagonism to what he calls the legal-medical "mumbo-jumbo whose origins lie in the dark ages of English law" and his preference for the "noble use" of healthy organs. But Coma, a corker of a novel, will do little to advance that cause; it will rather—in addition to giving anyone who picks it up a splendid read—make a lot of jittery folks more than a little more apprehensive about the medical profession in general, and surgical procedures in particular.
David Brudnoy, "Books in Brief: 'Coma'," in National Review (© National Review, Inc., 1977; 150 East 35th St., New York, NY 10016), Vol. XXIX, No. 30, August 5, 1977, p. 899.
(The entire section is 201 words.)
Inevitably, perhaps, there are no emotions in Coma, a brash, oddly fascinating and unintentionally hilarious fantasy about black market tissue-transplants. Its author is a scuba-diving medical instructor at Harvard who admits in an admonitory epilogue to having recently acquired 'a heightened regard for female physicians and female medical students'. And so, out of a formula of medical jargon and behaviourist psychology, he has created a female character of the purest plastic…. As a story, Coma has a fairly high rating on the hedonic calculus, often inducing that sudden tightening of the throat muscles which is a sure indication that the patient is about to laugh.
Tom Paulin, "Head-Knowledge," in New Statesman (© 1977 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 94, No. 2422, August 19, 1977, p. 251.∗
(The entire section is 122 words.)
"Sphinx," a wordy thriller about black-market intrigue in Egypt, is as inert as its many mummies. For a few chapters, the reader wonders whether they are inert at all. The references to the "Curse of the Pharaohs," the ominous flashbacks to ancient Egypt, and the mysterious deaths of tomb-violators all suggest that an avenging mummy will soon emerge. Mr. Cook, however, exploits the mummy-tale formula for other purposes. Coinciding neatly with the King Tut craze, his interest is in the material glitter of Egyptian artifacts. These he describes in intricate detail, as if to deflect attention from the tedious plot….
Even Mr. Cook's sense of place and history, the novel's one strength, is compromised by triteness: "It must have been a fascinating era, full of turmoil, upheaval, and emotion." Making adventure-story clichés work requires at least a modicum of self-awareness and humor…. But when Mr. Cook writes of "Stygian darkness" or tells us "The silence was deafening, the blackness impenetrable," he does so with a straight face, with a sense of discovery—with "renewed enthusiasm" every time.
Jack Sullivan, "Thrillers and Killers: 'Sphinx'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1979 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 13, 1979, p. 23.
(The entire section is 202 words.)
[Cook] can't miss with [Sphinx]. There is adventure, sex, torture, murder, and a feminist heroine, Harvard Egyptologist Erica Baron, who discovers a pharaoh's tomb full of priceless treasures. There's also a diverse assortment of characters, some of whom seek to kill her. King Tut, move over.
George Cohen, "Fiction: 'Sphinx'," in Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright 1979 by the American Library Association), Vol. 75, No. 18, May 15, 1979, p. 1419.
(The entire section is 70 words.)