If the words depressingly timely can be applied to a novel, that novel is Morphed. Essentially a story of the various steroids, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and other pharmaceutical additives used to give athletes — in this case, Olympic cyclists — that precious, vita, gold medal luring extra hundredth of a second, Morphed is about much more than just that.
Sports page coverage of what are broadly termed “Steroid Scandals” tend to massively focus on the athletes; after all the readers and certainly the sportswriters know the athletes of baseball, football or the Tour de France as celebrities. Plus a focus on the athlete himself allows for the Morality Play that is at the heart of sport. The fan cheers; yet in the great balance of the universe, the fan must equally boo.
Yet is it entirely fair to totally blame the athlete? The cyclist in Shapiro’s book, Troy Hale, is typical of the greater breed: A young man focused on Olympic Gold in 2012 who knows that to get there, he must trust his team of mentors — trainers, coaches, and, oh yes, team doctors. There can be no prescription without a prescribing doctor, and so Shapiro wisely focuses his narrative on them.
In particular, there are two medical practitioners in conflict here. One is Speak Singleton, who after seeing his own son die in Speak’s Emergency Room from an overdose of performance enhancements, takes it as his quest to keep sport clean. The other is the American cycling team’s Coach Whitford to whom the end justifies any means. One man has morphed into a crusader; the other into a facilitator. It is the moral dilemma that moves this novel into the outstanding category. That morality conflict is very much a heart vs. mind, subjective vs. objective competition. Singleton is driven to leave his emergency room and move to Salt Lake City in a desire to save other athletes’ from both his son’s and his own fate. When he was unable to save his boy Liam, he also lost his marriage to Liam’s mother. Save lives – save hearts – save love. To Whitford, it his job to make goals into gold. Chillingly, he sees nothing wrong in what he does. After all, it’s what ‘they’ want, now isn’t it?
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller