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Authors: Robin Cook

Coma

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A Letter from Robin Cook

to His Fans

Here it is twenty-five years after the publication of
Coma
, and I find it a shocking milestone for me as an individual (Where have twenty-five years gone?) and, in a particular sense, a rather sorry milestone for society and medicine. My motivation for writing
Coma
was to dramatize the looming shortage of organs for transplantation. The medical community had been racing ahead, improving the efficacy of transplantation and providing hope for certain desperately ill people, but at the same time giving little thought to the supply side of the equation. Since I had done some transplant surgery myself, I was particularly concerned about this situation, and it became my dream that an entertaining novel and a subsequent movie could influence public policy to nip the developing problem in the bud.

Unfortunately things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. Although I succeeded in scaring people away from operating room 8, which certainly wasn’t my goal, the larger issue was not solved. In fact,
Coma
could be published today since its story line and message are even more currently cogent, with more people waiting for lifesaving organs than in 1977 and more people dying for a lack thereof. It is indeed a sorry situation because appropriate organs are regularly given over to the microbes and worms for a lack of appropriate public policy.

On a lighter note,
Coma
essentially created a popular new genre: the medical/biotech mystery thriller. I am pleased that the book’s reception vindicated my belief that stories of social significance involving medicine and medical research could be as entertaining and engaging as those dealing with detectives, spies, political intrigue, and traditional whodunits. As I reread the book after all these years, I squirmed a little at my ingenuousness. It was, after all, only my second book, compounded by the fact that I’d taken all the wrong courses in college for such an endeavor! At the same time I marvel that I was able to do it at all,
considering the handicap of such scant writing experience and having to do it in the wee hours of the night while functioning as a busy doctor-in-training by day. But I certainly enjoyed rereading some of the scenes, like the one in which Susan Wheeler is chased into the anatomy storage locker. It gave me goose pimples all over again. In real life seeing the cadavers hanging up in a similar refrigerator had been the most visually disturbing experience of my first year in medical school.

One other point of interest: The name I selected for the hit man whom I made a really bad character is the name of one of my former roommates from college. I used the name because I’d been disappointed he’d dropped out of sight and had not contacted me for a long time. Needless to say, after
Coma
came out, I did hear from him!

ROBIN COOK, M.D.

November 2002

“A chilling, fast-moving suspense thriller . . . un-put-downable.”


The Boston Globe

Twenty-five years ago, a medical thriller by an unknown doctor provided a shot in the arm of unrelenting suspense. Still considered one of the best of the genre,
Coma
propelled Robin Cook to the top of his field and earned him a reputation as the “master of the medical thriller” (
The New York Times
). Now readers have another chance to discover this classic masterwork of nightmarish possibility.

Coma

They called it “minor surgery,” but Nancy Greenly, Sean Berman, and a dozen others—all admitted to Boston Memorial Hospital for routine procedures—were victims of the same inexplicable, hideous tragedy on the operating table.
They never woke up.
 . . .

“Gripping, terrifying, fast-paced suspense.”


The New York Times

“Unnerving . . . will lower your temperature.”


Newsweek

“Strikes a deafening chord of terror.”


The Washington Post

DR. ROBIN COOK, a graduate of Columbia Medical School, finished his postgraduate medical training at Harvard. He is the author of
Shock, Abduction, Vector, Toxin, Chromosome 6, Contagion,
and numerous other bestselling novels.

Praise for the Novels of Robin Cook

SHOCK

“DELIGHTFULLY READABLE.”


Kirkus Reviews

ABDUCTION

“LEAVE IT TO . . . COOK TO SCARE US ALL TO DEATH.”


Los Angeles Times

VECTOR

“FRIGHTENING.”


Publishers Weekly

TOXIN

“THE PROGNOSIS FOR
TOXIN
IS GOOD.”


Chicago Tribune

CHROMOSOME 6

“SHOCKING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING.”


Associated Press

INVASION

“COOK CERTAINLY KNOWS HOW TO TELL A STORY.”


The Detroit News

CONTAGION

“SPINE-TINGLING.”


The Denver Post

ACCEPTABLE RISK

“[A] SUSPENSEFUL THRILLER.”


San Francisco Chronicle

FATAL CURE

“RIVETING.”


The San Diego Union-Tribune

TERMINAL

“A SPELLBINDER.”


Houston Chronicle

VITAL SIGNS

“NONSTOP ACTION.”


Kirkus Reviews

HARMFUL INTENT

“A REAL GRABBER.”


Los Angeles Times

MUTATION

“HOLDS YOU PAGE AFTER PAGE.”

—Larry King,
USA Today

MORTAL FEAR

“A CHILLING ODYSSEY.”


USA Weekend

OUTBREAK

“HIS MOST HARROWING MEDICAL HORROR STORY.”


The New York Times

GODPLAYER

“A PAGE-TURNER.”


People

FEVER

“GRIPPING.”


The New York Times Book Review

Coma

Robin Cook

SIGNET

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA / Canada / UK / Ireland / Australia / New Zealand / India / South Africa / China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. This is an authorized reprint of a hardcover edition published by Little, Brown & Company. Published simultaneously in Canada by Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited. For information address Little, Brown & Company, 34 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02108.

First Signet Printing, December 1977

Copyright © Robin Cook, 1977

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

ISBN: 978-0-698-16073-6

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

In memory of my father,

recognition of my mother,

and thanks to Sharron.

Table of Contents

Prologue: February 14, 1976

Monday: February 23: 7: 15 A.M.

Monday: February 23, 7:30 A.M.

Monday: February 23, 9:00 A.M.

Monday: February 23, 10:15 A.M.

Monday: February 23, 11:15 A.M.

Monday: February 23, 11:40 A.M.

Monday: February 23, 12:10 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 12:16 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 12:34 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 1:33 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 1:53 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 2:45 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 3:36 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 5:05 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 6:55 P.M.

Monday: February 23, 8:32 P.M.

Tuesday: February 24, 8:05 A.M.

Tuesday: February 24, 10:48 A.M.

Tuesday: February 24, 11:00 A.M.

Tuesday: February 24, 11:45 A.M.

Tuesday: February 24, 2:30 P.M.

Tuesday: February 24, 7:20 P.M.

Wednesday: February 25, 5:45 A.M.

Wednesday: February 25, 11:15 A.M.

Wednesday: February 25, 1:30 P.M.

Wednesday: February 25, 4:30 P.M.

Wednesday: February 25, 7:15 P.M.

Wednesday: February 25, 10:41 P.M.

Wednesday: February 25, 11:25 P.M.

Thursday: February 26, 1:00 A.M.

Thursday: February 26, 2:11 A.M.

Thursday: February 26, 10:41 A.M.

Thursday: February 26, 4:23 P.M.

Thursday: February 26, 5:20 P.M.

Thursday: February 26, 5:47 P.M.

Thursday: February 26, 8:10 P.M.

Thursday: February 26, 8:47 P.M.

Thursday: February 26, 11:51 P.M.

Author’s Note

Prologue

February 14, 1976

Nancy Greenly lay on the operating table on her back, staring up at the large kettledrum-shaped lights in operating room No. 8, trying to be calm. She had had several pre-op injections, which she was told would make her sleepy and happy. She was neither. Nancy was more nervous and apprehensive than before the shots. Worst of all, she felt totally, completely, and absolutely defenseless. In all her twenty-three years, she had never before felt so embarrassed and so vulnerable. Covering her was a white linen bedsheet. The edge was frayed, and there was a small tear at the corner. That bothered her, and she didn’t know why. Under the sheet, she had on one of those hospital gowns which tie behind the neck and descend only to midthigh. The back was open. Other than that, there was only the sanitary napkin, which she knew was already soaked with her own blood. She hated and feared the hospital at that moment and wanted to scream, to run out of the room and down the corridor. But she didn’t. She feared the bleeding that she had been experiencing more than the cruel detached environment of the hospital; both made her acutely aware of her mortality, and that was something she rarely liked to face.

At 7:11 on the morning of February 14, 1976, the eastern sky over Boston was a chalky gray, and the bumper-to-bumper cars coming into the city had their headlights on. The temperature was thirty-eight degrees, and the people in the streets walked quickly on their separate tracks. There were no voices, just the sound of the machines and the wind.

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