Sunday, March 26, 2006

#18 - Intuition

Intuition, Allegra Goodman's absolutely fascinating novel about the world of cancer research, has received such good reviews that I was afraid it might not live up to my own expectations. How wrong I was. A wide, sweeping tale of how a team of cancer researchers at a lab in Cambridge make a startling discovery only to have it followed by crippling accusations of fraud, Intuition isn't just a book about science, but of the interpretation of science. The book tells an elegiac tale of how science, regardless of method, madness and the push for results, remains a remarkably human conquest.

The lab, run by two headstrong people, pure scientist and overt genius Marion Mendelssohn, and Sandy Glass, a bombastic, brilliant oncologist, employs a dedicated number of postdocs toiling away at the seemingly endless quest to discover more information about cancer. When a bright but disorganized postdoc named Cliff starts to show dramatic results in terms of one of his experiments, the entire lab reels in the glory of the findings. Yet, when Robin, Cliff's volatile, yet noble, girlfriend (then ex-girlfriend) questions his research, a wave of controversy engulfs every single person it its wake. No one comes out the other side unscathed.

Goodman's rich and fascinating book engulfed me in the same way. The science in the novel isn't so dense that it's impossible to understand or follow; in fact, it's quite the opposite. And I love how the whole book sort of sets out the argument that science itself, despite its very definition, is not infallible. It's one hell of a captivating novel, and I'm sincerely glad that I managed to finish it for the Book A Day challenge.

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