This is a review of "Laminar Flow", Book 1 in "The Book of Drachma" series, by author Timothy H. Cook.
From the back cover: What does being a doctor really feel like? What is it like to get called out in the middle of the night to care for a desperately ill patient, to be the one everyone depends on? Bob Gilsen knows only too well. And what does a fifteenth century physician, who gets called out in the middle of the night in winter, possibly have to offer his patient? This is the beginning of "The Book of Drachma", a novel of medicine, murder, fantasy, and self-discovery, set in two times and places.
I will preface this review by saying that my opinion of this novel is not without bias, as the author is a good friend of mine and I have been following the creation and publication of this series for more than a year now. That being said, this is work that I would categorize as being in a class of its own, as I have yet to read another or hear of a medical-fantasy written with such conviction in regards to the world of medicine while also presenting a deep and well-crafted world of characters and mythologies.
Doctor Robert Gilsen is a man stretched to his limit, doing what he loves on a day to day basis but perhaps doing too much of it, as he hardly has time for much else in his life aside from attending to his patients. Meanwhile, in another place, an ocean away and hundreds of years in the past, a plague is besieging a small island of Britain, one that strikes seemingly without reason and without cure.
Roughly the first half of Laminar Flow deals with the juxtaposition between these two times, modern and middle age, between two doctors with incredibly different sets of circumstance and practices yet a common strength: a strong, undeniable desire to heal. We, the readers, are given hints as to the link between these two worlds that seem so disconnected as each chapter unravels, the storylines slowly bleeding into one another. A turning point is reached (as I said roughly at the halfway mark) and it is here that, in my opinion, the true meat of "The Book of Drachma" epic begins.
Until that point, we are in character development mode, receiving an in-depth look into the life and struggles of Doctor Bob and learning the ins and outs of fifteenth century Shepperton. What's most striking in these early chapters is the attention to medical accuracy in terms of language and terms used, fast-moving jargon implemented by the characters that at times can perhaps be overwhelming to the layman. However, this does not deter from the drama. If anything, the author's real-life experience as a doctor for several decades adds to the credibility of the in-story action, providing solid ground on what would otherwise be muddled scenes of vague reference and ill-informed descriptions by a lay fiction writer.
This is the strength and perhaps a shortcoming. For while I said that the medical terminology does not take away from the story flow, I feel that some readers may be put out by these scenes. Really though, shortcoming is too harsh a word, for it's not the text's fault that many of today's readers prefer the easily digestible over a work that requires a little attention and concentration to be enjoyed.
Sadly, I must point out that the book contains a number of typos that should have been cleaned up during the editing process. Personally, these were not enough to draw me out of the fiction, but understandably, for some readers, this might be a deal breaker. I am not, however, reviewing the editing job done by the publisher, but the work of the author.
So I will say, without giving away too much of the plot, that though this may not be the book for everyone, it presents a great read for those looking for the unconventional adventure tale, for heroes that rely on wits and knowledge over swordsmanship or pure strength, for fantasy that doesn't place the strangeness of its setting over the realism of its characters, this is most definitely the book for you. Even now as I type this, I realize that there are so many varied plot lines forming, evolving, and intertwining thoughout this novel that it would be impossible to properly summarize the myriad of events and unfoldings that take place between the two covers.
Laminar Flow can be purchased as a paperback directly from Tate Publishing, or through Amazon.