Book review:『走れ外科医』by Yujiro Nakayama

Introduction

Title:『走れ外科医』(はしれげかい)
Author: Yujiro Nakayama (中山祐次郎)
幻冬舎文庫
396 pages

This is the third novel in the series 泣くな研修医.

In the series, we follow young surgeon Ryuji Ameno as he takes care of his first patients and is overwhelmed by the amount of things to learn in 泣くな研修医, then we see him slowly but steadily gaining some experience in 逃げるな新外科医. In 走れ外科医, Ryuji has now gained confidence and becomes an inspiration for his younger colleague Rinko.

Review

I absolutely loved the first book of the series because I found the character of Ryuji extremely relatable, and the novel was an excellent way to peek into the medical system of Japan. I learned a lot about medical procedures and Ryuji’s struggles felt very real. The second book was less powerful, but it was still very interesting to read, and I liked the introduction of the new character Rinko. It might be inevitable that the third novel should lose a bit of what makes the series so engrossing. As Ryuji becomes more experienced, the series also departs from its recipe, and while things get better for our protagonist, the novel might also feel less exciting for the reader.

But to be honest, I would have been perfectly happy to follow Ryuji in his daily tasks, meet new patients and accompany them during their stay at the hospital. With a more mature and experienced Ryuji, things would have been less chaotic than they used to be (though I guess he could also have been confronted with difficult cases), but still, it would have been good enough.

However, the author decided to take another course and try different things to diversify what is happening in the novel. First, we have a weird change in focus. I believe that the whole series has been told from Ryuji’s point of view without exception, so it felt very strange when we suddenly follow the point of view of two other characters. I found that it did not bring much. The episode where we follow Rei Sato, a senior doctor who has been mentoring Ryuji since book one, was very strange. We almost never get to know her during the whole series and suddenly, we are asked to follow her while she makes a life turning decision.

I have never been a fan of episodes with Haruka, Ryuji’s girlfriend. I always found them to be the weaker parts of the novels, and I had the same feeling here too. Their relationship seems artificial, I cannot feel that Ryuji really cares for Haruka or even has feelings for her. The scenes seem here only to check the case ”scenes with girlfriend”, and they feel uninspiring to me. Similarly, the episode where Ryuji visit his mother with Haruka felt rushed and didn’t lead anywhere. It felt like a mandatory episode that the author wanted to be over with as quickly as possible, which feels strange given how deeply episodes with his family must have affected Ryuji.

The last 100 pages of the novel where we see Ryuji and two other characters climbing mount Fuji were extremely boring to read to me. It is very long for a single episode (1/4 of the novel!) and I did not find it interesting at all. Nothing much happens, it is just a description of the climbing with dialogues that don’t seem to go farther than ”are you alright?”, ”I’m alright” and ”thank you so much”. Other readers might enjoy reading this kind of scenes, but it is not for me at all.

This book belongs to a series of medical fiction and this is the reason why I bought it, so I felt a little bit betrayed by the series at the end of the third book. I would have loved to learn more medical things or treat different illnesses with Ryuji rather than climb Mont Fuji for 100 pages. Maybe the author did not want to overwhelm the reader with too many medical explanations, but at the same time, this is certainly what you are looking for if you buy this book.

I find that the author really did a great job at teaching the reader some basic medical vocabulary and procedures in the first two novels. As a result, we are now used to the medical words our protagonist will use, and we are also familiar with his daily routine at the hospital. So I think that the author should have trusted the reader to be able to understand more advanced medical procedures, and it would have been nice to be confronted with more complicated health challenges as Ryuji gains experience. But it looks like the author wanted to address a more general public by writing a story of nice people hanging out together.

To me, this novel felt like it was written for the drama adaptation. All the characters felt more stereotyped, they just appear to play the part assigned to their character. The fact that we focus on several characters and that more space is given to friendship and relationships in general compared to medical challenges made me also feel like I was actually watching a drama rather than reading a novel.

Overall, the sudden change of point of view and the Mont Fuji episode made this novel much weaker to me than the previous ones. This being said, I don’t regret reading it. All the books of the series are easy and agreeable to read, and I heartily recommend to try the first novel, even if you are not particularly into medical fiction. I also think that the series is particularly good for language learners, because it is easy to read with a lot of dialogues and a lot of recurring vocabulary, which makes learning new words really rewarding.