Author Paddy Chayefsky
This is the spoiler free review of Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky. If you would like to check out the spoiler full review and read about how trippy this book gets in detail please go here.
I was lucky enough to first see the Altered States movie at a special screening on 35mm. The movie blew me away. It was so unlike any other sci fi movies I could think of. The philosophy behind it was new and the science used to explain it wasn’t outright laughable.
I saw that it was based on a book but when I went to buy it I found that it’s been out of print for quite some time. It looked like I would have to find a used copy at some point. I put it on my to read list and then just kind of forgot about it until my boyfriend surprised me with a heavily used copy for Christmas.
He said he bought the copy that was listed as still containing all of the pages. So sad that this wonderful book hasn’t been printed in so long and that it’s so difficult to find an adequate and readable copy!
But after all of that I am very happy to report that the book is exactly like the movie. It’s a brilliant adaptation of an extremely complex novel and I recommend both completely.
The basic premise is that an eccentric experimental psychiatrist professor believes that he can unlock the grand consciousness through use of an ancient hallucinogenic mushroom.
He believes that all consciousness is connected. Not just through one living person to another but through all human history as well. He finds he can relive memories from early human ancestors.
He goes on an intense and bizarre journey through use of this drug and learns invaluable lessons about what it means to be alive and how consciousness came to be. Everything anyone thinks they know about the fundamental realities of physics and humanity will be turned upside down.
The author went to great pains to make the book as scientifically accurate as possible given the completely out there premise of the book. He began with a wild idea and worked backwards, interviewing many experts on how, if any of this were possible, would it work.
A lot of theorizing goes into this book but it largely succeeds as a hard sci fi novel. Many science fiction stories get lazy with the science part. They move technology to the point that it’s basically magic, they stick to vague descriptions, or at worst they misuse existing science just to sound smart.
Altered States is anything but lazy. Casual readers may find the language challenging but almost everything can be deciphered through context. The characters are all highly regarded scientists in their fields and speak as experts would. Nothing is dumbed down but it never comes off as pretentious.
For as much happens in this book it is surprisingly short, under 200 pages, and I finished it very quickly. The characters and story are completely engaging and I was immersed in the concepts.
I highly recommend this one, please try and find a copy. But if you can’t the movie really is a very true adaptation and I can recommend it as well.
5/5 apes 🦍🦍🦍🦍🦍
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Buy the book here: Altered States: A Novel
Buy the movie here: Altered States [Blu-ray]