And as an explanation of how high-priced pharmaceutical science, the modern university, government funders, and the private sector mesh (or, in many cases, do not mesh), this novel mostly works. There are a few ticky-tack problems. For example, Greenberg seems to think that assistant professors cannot apply for their own grants or become principal investigators (obviously not true: at many universities grants are the most important factor in tenure decisions). Nor do many students get through graduate school in three years (if graduate school itself wasn't such a long slog, more years of postdoc might be more acceptable).
But this is small stuff. I was even willing to suspend my disbelief for what is by far the least likely plot point: the appointment of a university president sight unseen. For the most part, there is a ton of good information here.
Even though the author should have transferred some of his effort from exposition to characterization, it's worth transferring some of your cash to read it.
The biggest problem with this book is its unremitting cynicism. (And trust me, no one has ever called me a pollyanna about the state of modern science.) But what one commonly experiences (or at least, what I experienced) at the university are mostly well-intentioned people who are brainwashed into thinking that a twisted culture with a skewed incentive system is normal. Most scientists, at all levels, desperately want to believe in meritocracy.
As a lesson in how things work, this makes little difference; in terms of story, it is an important drawback. In part, the story is (must be) intended to be satire and parody, but much of satire requires juxtaposition to reach its maximum effectiveness, and there's none of that here. That's not to say it is never done well - for example, the ridiculous caricature of undergraduate protests and newspapers. The wealthy Martin Dollard (=dullard?), prattling on endlessly about "societal impacts" (without ever getting to the point) is quite true to life, especially his silly idea for a "roundtable" discussion group. But even in Martin's case, it's never made quite clear how much of his plan is about self-aggrandizement and how much comes out of a genuine desire to improve things within means his own limited capabilities can devise.
This showcases the most damaging problem, which is that there are no characters to ground the reader, to contrast with the underlying cynicism. What each character wants is quite clear, what's at stake less so, and why we should care entirely obscure. Narrative arc is limited and the book is more like a "slice of life" in a broken system. Even the protagonist, a "failed" postdoc who joins a venture capital firm, is a thin character whose motivations are never explained enough for readers to develop a sense of empathy.
There is a bewildering amount of exposition in the book, sometimes overwhelming even for a reader who has worked both at a university and in the government. Greenberg would have done better to chop off a smaller piece and delve more deeply into it through his characters. That new speakers don't always get a new paragraph in dialogue scenes is a minor but annoying idiosyncrasy that makes the text seem even more daunting (via blockiness).
All that being said, the book succeeds at what it sets out to do, and I'd recommend it to readers inside and outside science, inside and outside government, who want to better understand the system. While Marilynne Robinson has nothing to fear, there is a lot to be learned from this book. Greenberg has done a service by chronicling this dynamic in narrative form. It's a bit disappointing to me that he evidently couldn't find an agent or publisher (this is an assumption - maybe he didn't try) for what could be labeled much-needed "muckraking" of the modern university.