Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Cancer Code / Andrew Findlay

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Thriller

Approximate word count: 140-145,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Andrew Findlay grew up on the East Coast of England, where he developed a passion for sailing and the sea which has stayed with him throughout his life.

In the 1980s, he was based in London and worked in theatre and later the British film industry directing television drama and documentary productions as well as TV commercials and clips for the nascent music video scene.

During this time, Andrew developed his writing skills, eventually moving to Paris in 1990 to pursue a career as a full-time screenwriter. For the next decade, he wrote many television movies and eventually moved to Hollywood in 1997 to focus his attention on writing for the big screen.

In 2007, he moved to the south of France for five years before returning to Notting Hill Gate in London where he now lives with his wife and family.

While working for a major pharmaceutical firm, Jim McWaide conducts extra-curricular studies at MIT through which he discovers a cure for cancer. On learning that his cure will only be available to the uber-rich, Jim decides to turn over the discovery to a non-profit so it’ll be widely available and cheap.


I picked this book because of the premise. I think it’s pretty close to what would happen to a cancer cure. The concept that the cure was derived from Resveratrol, a beneficial agent in red grapes was a nice beginning for some speculative science.  So, good premise—check, interesting theoretical basis—check, but execution---not so strong.

The story begins with an action sequence where Jim is being threatened by a menacing ex-CIA agent. The agent wants the cure (which only Jim has). Jim escapes. The action is well written. Sadly, though this is a teaser because the book soon time lapses back one month, which killed any tension the backstory might have contained because I knew Jim was going to go rogue.

However, the backstory was enjoyable, especially regarding his college days and how he lost the love of his life. We get a look inside Jim’s mind, and inside the boardroom of the too-stereotypical evil big-pharma corporation.

So what’s the problem?

Well, Jim’s the problem. He’s a confusing character, in some places excruciatingly sexually inhibited, in others happy to bang a college student he met one hour ago. On the one hand nerdy and weak, but still capable of outwitting an ex-CIA operative and a powerful multi-national.

The book is mostly a chase, with the bad guys trying to snatch Jim and fill him with truth serum. He lurches from one episode to the next, meets up with folk from his past and their friends, gets a fair amount of blood and guts spilled on him and from him, and has more sex than any nerd has the right to expect.

But here’s the problem: every time Jim’s faced with a challenge, something or someone appears from nowhere and fixes things for him. While it’s okay for a coincidence to put the main character in trouble, it chips away at my suspension of disbelief when hap chance repeatedly saves the day. There was no tension, because he was never under duress.

Here’s a quote from the story: “The whole bizarre encounter did seem to Jim like the Muses had intervened and were saving him further stress.” My point exactly!

The last third of the story turns into a narrative telling of what Jim and various people (including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett) are doing with their lives, and their money, and with the cancer cure, and it became pretty monotonous.

In summary, the writing is wordy, but not bad, but the execution didn’t work for me.

Format/Typo Issues:

Numerous typos and missed words.

Rating: ** Two stars

1 comment:

Keith Nixon said...

Wow Pete 140k words! That's TWO books!!