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.