Hello again to my readers! This is definitely going to be one of those instances where my review topic is decidedly outside my usual focus topics of science fiction, history, fantasy and crime (to a degree.) Although in this case after finishing the book I feel a compulsion to talk about it in some way even if I end up sounding slightly less focused and more rambling than usual.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou is one of those books in physical form or in audio you can’t stop yourself from reading. It’s like watching one of those never ending car chases but on live TV. It’s a real story of a strange mix of genuine desire to improve medical science from some individuals, a simple desire to make money and a refusal to actually learn the lessons required to make the necessary changes and improve flawed structures internally and externally. But I should give a basic overview of what the book is about for those who don’t know.
Bad Blood is a book about the Theranos scandal, one of the most recent and horrific incidents of disgraceful misconduct in Silicon Valley. The book tells the story behind the meteoric rise and equally sudden fall of Theranos, a multi billion dollar (using American money since the book gives numbers in American currency) medical technology company. In 2014 they and the owner – Elizabeth Holmes – were seen as one of the great hopes of the Valley, promising to revolutionise healthcare with a machine that would greatly simplify the process of blood testing. At one point the company was worth more than $4.7 billion. Only one small issue: the device was a lie. This book is the full book released by the journalist who initially broke the story of Theranos’s lies.
Carreyrou writes the book mostly in a third-person descriptive style, looking at events from the point of view of select individuals he is quoting or in some select cases paraphrasing. For example at one point when talking about an ex-Theranos employee’s attempts to leave the company building after saying goodbye to long time friends while being hounded by lawyers to sign certain documents, he makes a point of describing the events from their point of view and in some cases using their own words.
The only instance where this is not the case is towards the end of the book where Carreyrou himself comes into ‘the story’ so to speak and describes the rest of the book mostly from his own first person perspective with some moments in third person from other points of view.
Thanks to interviews with individuals who saw behind the scenes such as ex-employees, government department staff, close friends of Elizabeth’s own family and certain famous individuals involved in the story you are able to see to some degree how it felt to work at Theranos during different stages of its life, the various ways in which Theranos’s concepts were inherently flawed and the horrific behaviour and bullying of its Chief Operating Officer Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani. The stories you are told are frankly horrifying. Beyond nightmares. In several ways? This book reminds me of my review of The Church Of Fear from back in January.
Bad Blood is fascinating. It is not easy listening by any means, some of the strategies attempted by Theranos make me feel inherently ill just thinking about how to phrase this article. You will either be like myself and fascinated despite the horror and therefore compelled to continue to the end of this real life story or you will never want to pick this book up in your life.
The narration for this audiobook edition is performed by a Mr Will Damron who in my opinion does a rather good job. His voice is – for the most part – very calm and relaxed. The only instances where this changes is when he’s quoting the words of individuals who were very angered and furious at the moment in question in which case he does raise his voice or somewhat change his tone to a small degree but the vast majority of the time his voice is calm and surprisingly easy to listen to given the topic in question. I can’t really imagine the audio version being in any way different. When bringing up important details and factual information he does so in a way that made the information relatively easy to understand even on those instances where the information provided to the reader or listener is more technical than the rest of the book. Damron’s narration in short – despite it not usually being my preferred style of narration – worked very well in this audiobook and I’d be more than willing to give him another listen on some of his other audio work.
In conclusion if the subject or the idea behind it interests you I HIGHLY recommend you obtain a copy as soon as you can. So long as you feel you may be able to cope with some of the less savoury elements. I hope I can persuade some of my readers to give this a read or listen despite it not being my usual review topic.
Also for your information according to the all powerful Wikipedia Holmes and Balwani are due to be in court in August of 2020 although whether that information is still accurate or not is debatable.