As Dr. Mukherjee sounded like a caring and knowledgeable physician whom one facing cancer might very well want to have as an oncologist, and also had interesting things to say, I next looked the book up on Amazon. Its Amazon ranking was #27 (anything under 100 is a best-seller) and it had nine 5-star reader reviews. One reader called it a "tour de force" and compared its author to Melville (of Moby Dick fame) for the scope and artistry of his writing; he also said that had he read this book in his teens, it might have inspired him to become a cancer researcher.
Publisher's Weekly described the book as "a sweeping epic of obsession, brilliant researchers, dramatic new treatments, euphoric success and tragic failure, and the relentless battle by scientists and patients alike against an equally relentless, wily, and elusive enemy." Clearly a book well worth reading, and one that readers are gravitating to in large numbers, judging by its popularity.
But now I would like you to take a step back and pretend that you are an alien and you have never heard of cancer, and look at the words that are being used to describe it. "The emperor of all maladies, the king of our terrors"; a "relentless, wily, and elusive enemy"; and from reader Kenneth E. MacWilliams this:
Do you feel the foreboding and the power of that language? Can you visualize, as an alien, the terrifying creature that is being described here, lurking in the darkness of that closet? What you are seeing is not the thing itself but what Richard Bartlett calls the "consensus reality" view of cancer, a morphic field that has been created by us through centuries of fear and not-knowing. We are afraid of it because for all our science and all our effort we have not been able to understand it or master it. The moment we understand it, it will lose its power and its terror, and it will be revealed, like the wizard of Oz, to have been much smaller and less frightening than we had believed it to be.
Siddhartha Mukherjee ... almost parentally takes us by the hand to give us the courage to open with him the door to that dark and foreboding closet in order to see what is really lurking inside. Since eventually most of us are going to have to wrestle with this monster anyway -- either as a victim or as a loved one of a victim -- looking intelligently and closely into that dark closet does diminish fear and enhance wise perspective. And on this incredible journey into the depths of that darkness, what an absolutely marvelous guide is this modern day Virgil called Siddharta Mukherjee as he leads us on this long and often harrowing journey through the swarth (sic) that cancer has cut through mankind throughout time. (my emphasis)
The face of any monster can change. The energy healing community has been saying with a quiet voice for years now that cancer can be treated and even healed without drastic and damaging interventions. Did you know that over 200 mice have now been cured of deadly cancers using energy healing in experiments that took place in accredited university laboratories and showed near-100% or 100% success rates? Or that the first series of these experiments took place over three decades ago, yet few people have heard of it? The results were so strange, so inexplicable, that no one wanted to know anything more. But the observed reality has been that, when energy healing works, cancer simply becomes a non-event. There is no monster, no monster-slayer, no heroes, no victims, no drama, no pain. Is this not something worth looking into for further research and development, for all our sakes?
A few years ago I read a small, insignicant article in the Globe and Mail that said that a few people in the American Southwest had contracted bubonic plague. Bubonic plague, the article went on to say, is easily treatable with erythromicin. Six hundred and fifty years ago bubonic plague wiped out half of Europe, an estimated 75 million people. Back then it, not cancer, was the "the emperor of all maladies, the king of our terrors." When new discoveries are made, things change -- sometimes faster than we can imagine.
Postscript, Feb. 25: I find it fascinating to see how well this book is doing. Everyone seems to be interested in cancer. It's almost like people slowing down to gawk at an accident scene on the highway. Yet few people, it seems, are interested in possible non-medical solutions to cancer. I wonder why that is. Here is another book to read alongside Emperor of All Maladies.
Postscript, May 14: It is now three months later, and the book is still at #107. People seem to be flocking to it almost the way they would slow down to view a road accident. For an antidote to the pessimism of the Emperor of All Maladies, read Embrace, Release, Heal by Leigh Fortson, now available from Sounds True. It's a paradigm changing book, sitting around #48,000. For my part I would rather have people reading Embrace, Release, Heal, but it seems that people prefer doom and gloom to hope.