David’s stories are fascinating, and he does something quite remarkable with his tone. Here the obvious comparison is to the neurologist and prolific writer Oliver Sacks, often described as the poet laureate of medicine. Even when Sacks wrote about tragedy, his narratives were imbued with meaning, and if not positivity, then at least a sad beauty. David appears not to be driven by the same impulses. Even when his case studies have positive endings, a rather thick vein of gray runs through them ... David’s encounters, bracing as they are, made me wonder if there isn’t something oppressive about the insistence on majesty and wonder in modern science writing. Life can be awful, after all. Fiction, generally, is allowed to stun and depress but there is pressure on nonfiction to offer consolation or at least guidance. David leaves some big questions uncomfortably unresolved, and his stories are all the more haunting for it. Rarely have I read a book whose title is so true. Reading it was like standing on the edge of a great chasm and seeing how easily an unforeseen mishap could send any one of us tumbling in.
Fans of the medical-mystery television series House will find arresting parallels—and striking differences—in the absorbing collection of real-life psychiatric case histories the distinguished British neuropsychiatrist Anthony David recounts ... the compassionate, philosophical Dr. David can’t help second-guessing himself, and that’s only one reason his case histories are so compelling ... I wish he had provided more details about the state of our still-unfolding knowledge of the neurological and other channels through which mind and body communicate with each other. That may be for another book, however. In the meantime, he has given us a gripping overview of the dilemmas that the traditional binary medical mind-set has yet to fully explore or grasp.
Into the Abyss provides a strong argument for the restoration of a balance between physical, emotional, and neurochemical approaches to this complex situation ... a challenging, stimulating, and sometimes troubling look into the minds of some very complicated and very disturbed patients ... The cases described in this book are certainly not characteristic of the patient load for the average psychiatrist. They do illustrate the interplay between the emotional and physical that, to some degree, affects all of us. Into the Abyss paints a fascinating picture of the ties between mind and body and the complicated ways they interact.