Story Line Press, Paper, 1996, 194 pp
A gripping novel about the battleground of human medical research—told from the patient's point of view.
From the Publisher:
At 41, Sam Kiehl was a successful political consultant, a long-distance runner and rock climber, the single father of a grown son, and lover of a popular newspaper columnist. Then he contracted a virus that targeted his brain and left him totally disabled. With few treatment options available, and his health continuing to worsen, Sam seizes upon the chance to offer himself as a subject in the clinical field trial of a new drug, Zomalovir. He becomes "Patient 002" and joins a group of patients from all walks of life who are similarly afflicted and similarly desperate. What happens to Sam, to the young woman named Tracy Marsh with whom he is partnered, and to the others in his group, provides a sometimes shocking, sometimes humorous, always dramatic picture of human medical research, a world seldom seen. As the research subjects respond—or fail to respond—to their experimental treatment, as participating doctors and nurses observe, and as Physicians for Ethical Research, the pharmaceutical company that developed the drug and operates the study, deals with harsh truths about the costs and risks of conducting research, Patient 002 becomes a riveting tale of choices made and consequences faced at the center of the illness experience.
Patient 002 is also a love story, as Sam discovers passion and romance in an unexpected places. It's also a novel of friendships forged in extreme circumstance, and of the human capacity for survival in the face of overwhelming obstacles. "Beware of hopefulness," a character in the novel says. Yet Patient 002, especially when the patients take matters into their own hands in surprising ways, is a novel of hope, healing and astonishing actions.
Quotes from reviews of the book:
"Patient 002 is a lighthearted, fast-paced, and at times absurdist medical thriller that looks askance at conventional medicine and embraces holistic healing. . . . In his fourth novel, Skloot introduces us to a plucky, colorful group of patients participating in a double-blind study of a new drug at an Oregon medical school. Skloot's novel is part critique of conventional medicine, part love story, part mystery, part heist caper, and part New Age comedy. . . . Has a wacky (and admittedly funny) 'Ocean's Eleven' quality. . . . A highly effective antidote for your reading blues." –Chuck Leddy, The Boston Globe
"Floyd Skloot is one of the most generous writers to be found between two book covers. He gives time and meticulous attention to his craft, as befits a poet, and offers up his own pain and joy to convey a sense of living life with a complicated disability. Now the Oregon author's newest work, the novel Patient 002, combines his gifts of honed language and brave personal revelation for a satisfying stylish story. That's not stylish as in trendy or lightweight, but rather: current, convincing and smart. . . . The ensemble of Sam and his fellow test subjects is good theater, thrown together by the common-denominator of crushing illness. The female characters are particularly well-drawn. . . . Patient 002 simultaneously provides a revealing peek into a big drug-company study (surely there's an HBO pilot in the works with this setting?) and unrolls a fable of the appealing pilgrim progressing through dark valleys and gleaming cities on a life-changing journey." –Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, The Seattle Times
"Floyd Skloot's 2003 memoir, In the Shadow of Memory, documented his battle with a neurological disease that left his brain suddenly damaged and his mind and body seriously infirm at the age of 41. His newest book, Patient 002 is also about such an illness, but it is a novel - and one with a scrappy hero, a villainous antagonist, a suspenseful third act and an idealized love interest. . . . While the unreliability of the drug study and its suspiciously early cancellation initiate the novel's dramatic thrust, it is the exasperating absurdity of the drug trial protocol and the simple sadness of Sam's life as a 'full-time patient' that make Patient 002 a compelling read. Skloot's use of description in both cases is superb.... Skloot is so artful in his depictions of both Sam's slow-motion life and the pharmaceutical industry that treats him like a lab rat that it is easy to empathize with Sam's fear and frustration - and to root for Sam's renewal and the drug company's collapse." –Joey Rubin, San Francisco Chronicle
"Readers familiar with Floyd Skloot's work have a surprise in store. . . . His fourth novel, Patient 002, departs from what we have come to expect. While he does not altogether abandon his literary roots, Skloot grounds Patient 002 in stylistically popular formats - a page-turner that is at once love story, caper and medical thriller that takes novelistic aim and fires on pharmaceutical companies.... The intricacies of drug trials make fascinating reading. . . . While this novel takes aim at our heath care system, it is certainly not cynical. If Patient 002 does one thing, it brings home that wellness is our responsibility, particularly if our expectations of miracles are met with medical, financial and political roadblocks." –Evelyn Sharenov, The Oregonian
"Medical research subjects get the shaft before striking back in Skloot's latest, an amusing and absorbing novel that pits a motley crew of Davids against a callous corporate Goliath. . . . Treats the complicated and often absurd protocols of drug studies with an authoritative, compassionate touch. The balance of humor, romance and cold observations makes for a commendable yarn." –Publishers Weekly
"Skloot turns an involving tale of the mind-body puzzle with a magnetic cast of unusual characters into an archly funny caper, infusing this masterfully understated, tender, and shrewd tale of love and healing with insight, compassion, and a touch of righteous indignation." –Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Skloot's own experience with illness is reflected in the deep understanding the novel reveals. A real page-turner." –Ann H. Fisher, Library Journal
"This isn't your professor's Floyd Skloot, ruminating on John Donne and Ayurvedic medicine, but a sensibility more akin to Joseph Conrad with all the burners going, brewing up a whopper like Nostromo. . . . A masterful demonstration of what the realistic novel can accomplish." –John Domini, American Book Review
"Patient 002, Skloot's fourth novel, gives every promise of changing the arithmetic of his reputation. The vividly drawn characters surrounding the protagonist, Sam Kiehl,. . . . widen Skloot's imaginative orbit. . . . What Patient 002 ultimately proves is that nothing heals the mind-body problem more than love. . . . In less capable hands Patient 002 would have turned preachy or mushy or both. That it doesn't is a tribute to Skloot's skill as a writer, as a novelist, who greatly deserves wider attention." –Sanford Pinsker, The Sewanee Review
"Patient 002 is an absolutely riveting novel. I'm not sure what I savored more: The way I was frenetically turning the pages, or all I was learning about the ways drugs are tested on humans. This is a terrific book: A thriller that is at once literary and spellbinding, and an exploration of the desperate hope we now bring to modern medicine." –Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of Midwives and The Double Bind
"With Patient 002, we are reminded once again that Floyd Skloot is one of America's finest underrated writers. This is a novel of great sensitivity and depth, with characters who feel real and for whom we feel great compassion. So much of Skloot's writings display a mastery of human pain and the way in which people live with damage and great dignity. And yet the unpleasant symptoms of his fictional world are miraculously contained within stories that are engaging, humorous, and life-affirming. If novels were meant to be agents of healing, then Patient 002 is the perfect pill for a house call." –Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems Of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke, and Elijah Visible
"Captivating story-telling infused with taut, real-life drama. Floyd Skloot's characters get a grip on you and they don't let go. A wonderful read." –Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent and The Language of Baklava
"This is a fabulous patient's-eye view of what it must be like to participate in a medical research trial. Though it's a fictional account, the author has first hand-experience with a similar illness and with the hopes, fears, and raw emotions that come from taking part in a clinical study. Take this charged situation, add skullduggery, action, and engaging characters, and the result is a novel that's both entertaining and enlightening." –Dr. Richard Deyo, author of Hope or Hype: The Obsession with Medical Advances and the High Cost of False Promises