When Professor Isidore Cantor reveals his latest breakthrough in cancer research, the scientific community is galvanized. Cantor's most promising research fellow, Dr. Jeremiah Stafford, has only to conduct the experiment that will prove the brilliant hypothesis and win cantor the Nobel Prize. But how far will the young assistant go to guarantee the results?
When Profesor I. Cantor, a distinguished cell biologist specializing in the cancer field, gets a brainstorm on the genesis of tumors, he recognizes it as a once-in-a-lifetime idea, the kind that gets you into the history books and wins Nobel prizes. The only thing lacking is experimental proof. Cantor concocts a brilliant demonstration, which he consigns to the capable hands of Jerry Stafford, his best post-doc student. The experiment succeeds, and earns Cantor and Stafford their Nobel. Indications that Stafford faked the experimental data, and the possibility that this information might be revealed, provide most of the novel's tension. Although Djerassi does not convince the reader that a prestigious prize can be awarded on such shakyground, his scientific morality play works well nonetheless. The characters--ranging from pompous panjandrums of science to an equally pretentious Bakhtin-spouting lit-crit student--are clearly realized and immensely entertaining, and the narrative moves at a brisk pace. Djerassi ( The Futurist and Other Stories ), a professor of chemistry at Stanford , received the National Medal of Science for his synthesis of the first oral contraceptive. Here he gives readers an absorbing view of big science at its seediest. (Oct.)