Shadow in the Ward
by Ari Gray

"You’re entering a world where compassion often takes a back seat to profit."

Set in the year 2042, this book features a healthcare system driven by the lure of financial gain and prestige that threatens the health of all its participants. Seth, a burned-out ER doctor who works nights at a hospital and cares for an ailing wife and daughter in the mornings, accepts a new job at an experimental hospital run by robots under doctor supervision. His initial relief at the clean and efficient environment turns into a challenge, though, when he discovers the dangerous and unquestioned premise under which the machines operate. Almost at a breaking point, he and his team fight to undermine the enemy.

The book’s emergency room settings include high-stakes, life-and-death drama, meshing with the book’s sci-fi medical thriller tone. At first, the action jumps from one critical patient to the next. Later in the book, however, the confrontations with the robots are the primary source of the action. Some medical and biological explanations, while informative, slow down the pace at times.

While medical care is delivered swiftly, the dialogue between the characters provides ample debriefing and philosophical inquiry, getting at the book’s purpose, which is not only to show genuine medical help but to develop ideas that underpin the aid only humans can offer. The balance of time-sensitive action sequences and essay-like reflection makes for a full-throttle and full-bodied plot with the clear message that solutions are possible, even in an imperfect medical system. Seth, Daria, and Cody’s teamwork makes the case that patients and doctors together are the recipients and purveyors of a better medical system for the future.

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