NERVE by Marshall Goldberg


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Like Philip Wylie's 1930s classic Gladiator (still in paperback print), Dr. Goldberg's lively, if rather technical, third novel imagines a scientist who's turned into a superman of sports. How is the transformation accomplished? Well, 45-year-old researcher Adam McKinnon--unhinged by his girlfriend's departure and distraught over the loss of his grant (which pays for his lab monkeys)--decides to test his new anti-senility serum on himself! And after partaking of this potent ""LBC"" (L-butyrycholine, derived from birds), Adam suddenly finds himself with the speediest reflexes of any man alive. But how can Adam use this newly acquired fitness to fund his research--which needs over $1 million? By becoming a big-money sports champion, of course. And so begins a sort of imitation Rocky--as Adam wins over great old trainer A1 Lakeman, creates a middle-aged sensation with his first few fights, and heads for a $1-million super-match against the toughest fighter in America: a mean black giant with concussive fists. (Meanwhile, too, Adam sidelines with one night as a hockey goalie and with plans for a ping-pong championship.) But Adam's master plan is soon undermined by a series of escalating complications. First, and least dire, is star reporter Megan Donovan--a new lady-love who's ferreting out the secrets of Adam's Jekyll/Hyde life. Then there's the spy angle: both the Pentagon and the Russians are after Adam's super-formula. Worst of all, however, Adam's overdosing medical transformation is having awful side-effects; and, as the day of the big fight approaches, the novel turns into an illness/survival melodrama. With more scientific density than most sci-fi-ish serum stories--there's also a subplot about LBC treatment for Adam's friend, who's dying of myesthenia gravis--this is okay fare for the medical/fantasy audience. But a broader readership will find it short on suspense. . . and without the genuine transformation tragedy which Richard Setlowe managed to evoke in The Experiment (1980).

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1981
ISBN: 0741401746
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan