Home - The Last Page Bookshop - The Horror Reviews Mail Hal C F Astell - Site Map

Altered States

Novel by Paddy Chayefsky (USA) 1978.

Eddie Jessup is a young university professor who has always been a little weird, and whose work is taking him deep into the fringes of science. He experiments with psychedelic drugs in Mexico and with isolation tanks at his university. The drugs regress his mind to a primeval state, to reach a different consciousness. The tanks isolate him from all senses, to reach a different consciousness. And when he combines the two, his experiments really start to take off. He finds himself in search of the primeval thoughts of early man, and realises he is certainly on the right track after an isolation tank experiment ends with him waking up naked and covered in blood in the grounds of the city zoo with a half-eaten animal at his feet: he has actually been regressing physically as well as mentally. But can he control when these regressions occur?

Later filmed effectively and controversially by Ken Russell (1980), starring William Hurt, this is one of the cleverest and most thought-provoking combinations of horror and hard science fiction yet released. The cover labels it "A 20th century Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" and just for a change the blurb is right. Like the hallucinatory film version, it's sometimes hard to follow because of all the technical jargon, and sometimes hard to continue because of the pervading sense of reality at the core of the plot. The book was released really far too late to be part of the 1950s/1960s drug culture led (in the literature field, at least) by novelists like William Burroughs, but it's certainly psychedelic enough in places to qualify. Many authors could make this seem possible, but prolific and successful playwright and scriptwriter Chayefsky makes it as real as life in this, his debut novel.


Home - The Last Page Bookshop - The Horror Reviews Mail Hal C F Astell - Site Map