Fiction - Thriller - Medical
340 Pages
Reviewed on 11/02/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Unblinded by D. Michael Hallman is a suspenseful crime thriller with a fascinating premise that teases the senses. When Dr. Paul Lazarus, a university researcher, discovers a wonder drug that will potentially repair damaged optic nerves and perhaps allow people who have been blind, even for decades, to regain their vision, everyone is naturally excited and agog over the prospect. Tests on rats and primates have been overwhelmingly successful, with no noticeable side effects. It is time to test this miracle drug on humans. Initially, a very low dosage of the drug is administered to just ten blind people in a Phase I trial. The sole purpose of Phase I is to monitor the patients for any side effects from the drug. Nobody expected significant results in patients’ vision with this part of the trial, so when two of the participants had seemingly miraculous recoveries from low dosage, excitement ran high as to the potential of this new wonder drug. Trey Osborne’s sight is miraculously totally restored after three years of complete blindness. Kathy Wright’s eyes are also totally restored but, having been blind for around thirty years, her brain is unable to reestablish visual pathways and everything is just a jumble of colors and shapes which depresses her deeply. Dr. Paul Lazarus begins to suspect the drug may cause unforeseen psychological changes in its subjects but for Trey and Kathy, these changes could prove to be severe and potentially damaging, as their lives begin to fall apart.

Unblinded is a compelling, exciting, and well-written book. Author D. Michael Hallman knows and understands his subject matter and all the medical aspects of drug trials and protocols. The characters are fascinating and if their vision impairments weren’t enough to have readers empathizing with them, then the issues they faced once their sight was restored will certainly be enough. I particularly appreciated the consideration the author gave, through Paul’s character, as to whether the behavioral changes the drug was suspected of causing were behavioral characteristics that had always been present in the individual. I also enjoyed the dilemma faced by medical researchers everywhere when they desperately want a drug to be successful, either for the good of humanity or even just for the millions of dollars the drug will rake in for them. I thought the author presented both sides of this argument exceptionally well. It was clear that when a drug is having the desired medical benefits, it is easy to gloss over any possible side effects and suggest they are probably not even related to the drug. Ultimately this story is about morality and coping with a massive change in life but the author made it interesting and fun by including a good old-fashioned detective drama in the narrative. This was an exceptionally enjoyable book to read and I can highly recommend it.

Alma Boucher

Paul Lazarus developed a drug that can cure blindness caused by optic nerve damage. The drug regrows the damaged nerves, and a connection must form between the eyes and the brain. Kathy Wright can see images after inhaling the drug. Being able to see is of no use to Kathy. She cannot make sense of the images and prefers to pretend that she is still blind. Kathy’s behavior changes and she intentionally drinks poison to be blind again. Trey Osborne can see perfectly now, but his personality has changed. He is always angry, and it does not take much to trigger his anger. Trey’s anger leads him down the wrong path. After inhaling the drug because of an accident in the lab, Paul realizes the drug has a major side effect. Only time will show if it is worth inhaling the drug in Unblinded by D. Michael Hallman.

Unblinded by D. Michael Hallman took me on a roller coaster ride. It is awesome that people can see again after inhaling a drug. But they were different people using the drug so it does not look as if it was worth it. The story is complex and very interesting. There was so much going on that I could not put the book down. It was worth reading from the first page and I could not wait to finish. With all the twists and turns, I never knew which way the story would go. The characters were excellent and strong. They were authentic and relatable, and the story was realistic. Unblinded is superbly written, and the events were described in detail. I was on the ride with the characters as one moment they are on a high and full of hope and the next moment everything goes downward.

Shrabastee Chakraborty

Wouldn’t it be a medical miracle if a blind person could regain perfect vision, no matter the cause or the duration of their blindness? That was precisely what Paul Lazarus’ new drug promised to do. Nothing short of magic medicine, OGF83 had been able to regrow the optic nerves in rats and monkeys. It was time for a clinical trial to determine if it acted the same in humans or had any severe side effects. Surprisingly, OGF83 seemed to work even better in humans, with a minimal dose restoring vision. Yet Paul could not help feeling apprehensive. Why would being able to see make the patients behave erratically? Were there unforeseen side effects that had been missed? To discover the answers, read Unblinded by D. Michael Hallman.

In this medical thriller, D. Michael Hallman presented a fast-paced narrative filled with dark undertones and spine-chilling moments. The tantalizing chapter titles not only foreshadowed the events but also created expectations. The seemingly innocuous drug turned out to have unpredictable consequences. We watched, horrified, as the situation gradually spiraled out of control. I loved that Hallman provided ample glimpses into the characters' thoughts, making me empathize with them. I shuddered when the inner monologues became sinister, justifying criminal activities. Instead of a ‘whodunnit’ approach, Hallman made us privy to all the events. We had to wait, paralyzed with fear, as a killer went on his killing sprees, unidentified and unsuspected.

Hallman never glossed over the technical nitty-gritty, explaining even the minute details with sound scientific logic. As a graduate student, I loved the perfect portrayal of the competitive world of academia. However, what appealed to me the most was the open-ended, troubling questions the book raised. What psychological ramifications could you expect when you tinkered with a brain drug? Unblinded would be a perfect read for anyone who appreciates thought-provoking medical thrillers and science fiction.

Lucinda E Clarke

One of the conditions most of us fear is that of going blind. So, after reading the synopsis, and with a little trepidation, I downloaded Unblinded by D. Michael Hallman. The suggestion of a new drug that could restore sight was just too interesting to pass by. After tests on mice and monkeys, it was time to experiment with humans, and ten blind subjects are chosen for the trials. At first, the nasal spray is administered in small doses, and the patients are monitored over twelve months. But it does not take long for the reader to discover that besides reactivating the optic nerves, the drug has further catastrophic side effects that no one anticipated. What appeared to be a groundbreaking, billion-selling cure affected behavior in the subjects in a way that could never be anticipated nor accepted.

From his brief biography at the back of the book, I don’t think for a moment that D. Michael Hallman has a partial or total loss of sight, but as I turned the pages it was difficult to believe how brilliantly he takes us into the world of total darkness without personal experience. We are introduced to two of the trial patients, Kathy who found life easier being blind, and partially recovering her sight becomes a nightmare. Trey too coped with day-to-day life in total darkness and adapted. His only regret was the loss of his job. His attempts to get re-employed lead to a devastating chain of events. I particularly liked the prologue; it enticed me into the story. While such intros are presently out of fashion, in this case, it served as an exciting hook to the rest of the tale. I couldn’t wait to find out how and why Kathy was in the hospital, talking to a psychiatrist. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and I’m happy to give it the full five stars it deserves.

Susan van der Walt

It is so easy to take our eyesight for granted. But imagine if you are blind and had the opportunity to participate in a clinical drug trial that has a chance of you regaining your sight. Surely you would jump at the chance? This is the premise of Unblinded by D. Michael Hallman. Two of the participants regained their sight. One was Augustus Oswald Osborne (called Trey) - who has only been blind for about three years. He regained his sight fully but stands to lose his disability pension due to his recovery. The second was Kathy Wright - blind from a young age - who can now see colors and shapes, but her brain can't make any sense of what she sees. During the trial, Paul, who developed the drug, discovers that it also affects patients psychologically, leading to poor impulse control.

D. Michael Hallman weaves an intense story of how two people react differently to the restoration of their sight. Kathy finds it more crippling than being blind and would go to extreme measures to be blind again. Trey would stop at nothing to protect his disability income - even pretending to be blind again. Follow this intriguing narrative to experience the intense emotions of Kathy and Trey and how they start to find solutions to their new and challenging circumstances. In Unblinded, the author creates a credible plot that quickly draws you into the lives and emotions of Kathy and Trey, keeping you turning the pages until the final chapter. An entertaining read for those who love medical suspense novels.