When you think of wine, you don’t, as a rule, think of cancer. You think of vineyards basking in the golden rays of a setting sun, of cool cellars and oaken casks, of the complex yet concentrated of a good red wine. And it is becoming evident that wine, red wine in particular, might actually have some beneficial effects on our health, alcohol notwithstanding.
Enter Jim Macwaide, the protagonist of Andrew Findlay’s The Cancer Code. He is a winemakers’ son who delved into the scientific world rather than labour on the family’ estate. The first impression of Jim is not in the most glorious light: Jim is a reclusive and resolute researcher working for a pharmaceutical giant, GluckSchmidtLittle. Snubbed by a past love, Jim devoted himself entirely to science, slaving feverishly with the virtually unlimited resources provided by his employers while also drawing deep on his personal knowledge of the background of wine-making and even his own personal ingenuity, working on that ‘Holy Grail’ of cures, a cure for cancer. And with the properties of Resveratol and after much hard work, the cure is created.
But all is not well in paradise- Jim found the cure while working on his own free time rather than company hours. Jim also realises the full ramifications were he to hand over such a silver bullet to the arsenal of GluckSchmidtLittle, especially given the cheap production costs of such a miraculous cure and the killing that a pharmaceutical giant could make from such a drug; both metaphorically in terms of the money-making and the access or denial to such a cure. Jim takes matters into his own hands and flees, embarking on a desperate manhunt with himself as the target; and at the same time a profound soul-searching on the road, with truths becoming revealed concerning his companions rather than compounds.
The book makes for a fast-paced thriller without skimping on the actual science behind cancer and Resveratol itself; the compound may be fiction but the author has clearly gone to great lengths and greater pains to ensure that the science fiction is based on science fact. Granted, the multi-syllabic technical terms might not be to everyone’s tastes, but the dense science terms explaining the cure and its effects mesh perfectly with the frantic pace of the manhunt launched by a ruthless corporate giant, of the disturbing agents sent to retrieve the data on cure with no holds barred and no concern to Jim’s safety or well-being.
Cancer Code is a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys a thriller worthy of the name coupled with the engrossing details behind the source of intrigue. And, like any wine, this book is to be savoured, shared with good friends and preciously guarded on an oaken bookshelf rather than an oaken barrel.
Review by Benjamin Dagg of the Books Are Cool team.