The 100 Books Project: Pharmacology.

“Always thought that the way someone cooks for you is how much they love you.”

Pharmacology” by Christopher Herz

Pharmacology is a book about a particular time, a particular place, and a particular young woman, though there are threads of familirity that could translate to any time. The setting is San Francisco, the mid-ninties, a time when this strange new thing called the Internet is starting to surface, and the threads of the Internet boom are starting to weave together. Sarah Striker finds herself on the edge of a scene, with gravity reaching out to pull her in. She comes from Kansas City hoping to raise money for her ailing father, but she finds more than just the money she’s looking for. She finds opportunity, she finds love, she finds a wider world and a calling; she finds opportunity and disappointment.

I’ll admit that Sarah’s voice took a little bit of getting used to. Speaks in fragments. Not always full sentences. And I felt that, for the most part, she was a fairly dispassionate narrator, as if she were sometimes just watching and recording what was happening around her than actually being fully invested and involved in it, even when the emotions she was describing were in regards to something directly happening to her. I never felt fully connected, though perhaps that’s a reflection of Sarah herself, since I certainly felt her disillusion and restlessness with her situations well enough.

My relationship and therefor my review on Pharmacology is somewhat strange, then. I liked the book, I liked the message, but I don’t think I liked it as well as I would have liked. I’m just young enough that I find the idea of putting people into an office and not having them sure how to use a computer seems quaint (this book takes place about five years after we got our first computer and right around the time we got Internet at home), but I could certainly fathom it. And it’s definitely not unbelievable that companies are doing studies on people and then hawking the results to Big Pharm to promote made-up diseases and spark concern in the population via well-strategized ad campaigns. That’s still going on today. But I did find some of the twists a little more predictable than they were made out to be. Some of them (like Sarah’s relationship with one of her roommates) were set up to be doomed from the start, but some of the other twists thrown at us I felt I was pretty able to dodge because I pretty much saw them coming. I also struggled with the ease at which Sarah hit it big with the company she starts infiltrating and the amount of cash she was bringing in, but that might just be jealousy. Where’s my big break like that, ugh? Can we go back to the ’90s economy? If Sarah’s success is any gauge, I think that would be a pretty sweet idea.

There are some great scenes in this book that stick with me and I love the setting and that it’s so ’90s, but I wanted to be drawn in a little bit more. I wanted to feel a little more for Sarah and her situation. I wanted certain gaps in the timeline to be a little more filled in. I felt at times that the book itself suffered from the ADD that Sarah’s company was trying to promote. That might have been the point, of course, but I think it could have come across a little bit better.

Books read: 13/100. (2/28 for this round)



  1. I can’t remember but when getting MA re addiction, history and treatment related titles spoke of industry creating addicting drugs to allegedly cure or control addictions. huh? We have become a pharmacology culture.

    • We really, really have. I’ve always tried to avoid using even aspirin for headaches when I can. Medication just weirds me out unless you’re obviously very clearly sick and not just being…well, a wuss.

  2. Haha. I hadn’t heard of this book, but my sister has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology, so I’ll have to tell her about it, just for kicks. I’d have to read the book myself, but some of its failings are some of the things we try to catch in my writing critique group. Not allowing the reader to feel enough of the main character’s emotions or get fully inside her are pretty big problems. And I’m old enough to remember the onset of the Internet and having to learn to use a computer beyond simple word processing. It’s very real, I assure you. ; )

    • Actually, now you remind me of another failing of the book: not bothering to mention the lovely music that is a screeching modem when you’re connecting to the Internet. Ah, those were the days!

      And not getting enough inside of Sarah, especially as the narrator, is definitely what held this book back for me. I was torn about feeling that way, though, because I feel that distance and her lack of penetration was still part of who she essentially was, but still, there just wasn’t enough…Which is a shame.

  3. I had wondered about getting this book, as a friend of mine gave it a similar review, decent but with a few things that don’t quite add up. I might add it to the reading list though.

    • I would still definitely recommend it. It’s a good read, though I don’t think anyone’s life would be lacking if they wound up not getting around to it. Then again, this is coming from a person who will read just about anything, just to be reading….

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