12/2 - I'm really enjoying the feeling of suspended tension in 'Hawk's' side of the story, but Kento's story is getting a bit bogged down in the details of biological science. Reading the explanations of what Kento's father wants him to do, my eyes were starting to glaze over with the complexity of it all. It seems clear to me that Takano did his research (or has a background in biology), but I really wish he hadn't been quite so thorough with his explanations, it's just a bit too much for someone with a 'no science' background. It's like he knows his professor will be reading this book and feels great pressure to get the science absolutely right and explain everything as if this is an exam instead of fiction. To be continued...
17/2 - I'm trying really hard to enjoy this because it has such a promising plot (it started out with four stars, but if I was to continue to be honest about my feelings regarding the book I couldn't leave the rating at four, it had to come down to three). It could be soooo good! but there are just too many incomprehensible medical, biological, and technical computer details. Any time something exciting starts to happen (whenever Hawk and his men in the Congo show up, which isn't nearly often enough) the chapter ends and the POV changes to one of the scientists who play a role in bringing the story together and the reader is bombarded with information about a highly technical subject that most of us just don't have the expertise to understand or the tolerance to find the depth of detail given all that interesting. The subjects of DNA, genetic mutations, code breaking, viruses, and so on are all interesting, but Takano just goes into so much detail that, at frequent points, I feel like I'm reading a non-fiction journal article aimed at professionals of the field. I was expecting a thrill ride, not a lecture. To be continued...
27/2 - GOD! I have been reading this for.ever.. I have to finish this tonight, there are other books which look really enticing and more interesting than this. My feelings haven't really changed regarding everything I said in my previous updates. The things that are annoying continue to be annoying, and the things that aren't annoying continue to be completely overshadowed by the aforementioned annoying things. To be continued...
28/2 - FINISHED FINALLY!! I feel like I've been reading this for months. In parts it's been a real tough slog, then others the story got very exciting and attention-holding. I will reiterate what I've said a number of times now - there was just too much technical detail. I felt like the author had read reviews of other sci-fi/action thrillers where the reviewers had complained about the lack of detail and realistic explanation as to how magical-seeming science stuff worked, and decided that no one was going to make the same complaint of his book. Unfortunately he went about 100 miles too far with his explanations, leaving this reader with the feeling of complete bemusement regarding all the scientific explanations about how new drugs are made. I feel compelled to give you an example, so below is a passage taken from reasonably early on in the book, page 53.
As he waited for the laptop to boot up, he read further in his father's message.
The research project:
1. I want you to design an agonist for an orphan receptor and synthesize it.
2. Details about the target GPCR are in the white laptop.
3. You have to complete the project by February 28.
Kento let out a groan. This was ridiculous. He read the instructions again, carefully, to make sure he was getting it. This was all a little out of his field.
The outer surfaces of cells have several types of receptors, all of which are proteins. As the name implies, receptors have pocketlike depressions that accept and bind to certain types of ligands and through this binding control cell function. This is how hormones are bound by the cells and how hormones influence cells to take a particular form and/or perform certain functions. For example, ligands in the form of male and female steroid hormones play a role in muscle development and skin conditioning.
The orphan receptors mentioned in his father's message are bodies whose function - and the ligands they bind with - are unknown. His father wanted him to find a material, an agonist, that would activate orphan receptors.
The GPCRs his father mentioned - G-protein-coupled receptors - are long, ropelike proteins that loop seven times inside the cell wall and out again, making a pocket in the middle. It is very hard to determine the pocket's shape, and designing a ligand to bond with it is extremely difficult.
To carry out his father's instructions would require a huge research organisation - like a pharmaceuticals company - as well as top flight researchers, more than a decade of work, and tens of billions of yen. Even then the hurdle would be so great the project might fail. Yet here his father was asking a second-year MA student, alone, with only five million yen to complete the task in a month. Was he crazy?
Did his father actually have any chance of succeeding? The clues to that would lie in the lab logbook, but the contents were way out of Kento's field of expertise.
There were only four pages of notes in the logbook. The first research goal, according to the notes, was to "design an agonist for the mutant type GPR769 and synthesize it".
Ah, Kento thought. So this mutant protein, GPR769, was the name of the target orphan receptor. The agonist was the drug that would bind with this receptor and activate the cell - in other words, an artificially created ligand. But that was as far as Kento could follow. The rest of the procedures read:
Structural analysis of mutant type GPR769
CADD (design in silico)
Binding assay in vitro
In vivo activity assessment
Other than the part about synthesizing, this all required expertise in other disciplines, and Kento couldn't judge whether these were appropriate directions or not. But he did get the impression that his father had greatly underestimated the difficulties of drug development. Structural optimization of the synthesized compound, clinical trials on humans - these critical and time-consuming phases of development were entirely missing.
Am I stupid, or does having multiple passages like that throughout the book make other people's brains hurt with information overload? Am I the only one who finds all that information just too dense for what originally appears to be an action thriller?
PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge: A Book with a Number in the Title