The Washington Post Review



Getting Used to an Alien Body

Ian Watson's new novel, Mockymen (Golden Gryphon, $26.95), begins in the manner of a contemporary thriller, segues into a novel of alien invasion, then finally becomes a neuro-mystical space odyssey. Only the rare conceptual and linguistic talents of the writer who was also responsible in large part for the similarly fertile disjunctions of the Kubrick-Spielberg film "A.I." could hold together such a hybrid book.

The first quarter of the tale concerns the attempts in the present day by an aged Nazi named Olav Frisvold to engineer his own reincarnation. He succeeds, and the story jumps to the year 2015, when Frisvold's selfish accomplishment will play a pivotal role in global events. Earth has been visited by the Mockymen, aliens who require the specially treated human bodies as their vehicles. Using humans as puppets, the Mockymen offer material salvation. But Anna Sharman, a tough-minded investigator for the Ministry of Alien Liaison, suspects that their motives are not at all altruistic. Her unraveling of their real goals will eventually find her risking her life on an alien world while wearing an alien body.

Watson's polished prose favors wry observations, sophisticated punning and droll interior monologues on the part of Anna Sharman. Yet in many such passages as the description of the alien city Anna visits, he provides brilliantly painted exteriors as well. Like a blend of Robert Silverberg, Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick, Watson offers both allegorical pilgrimages through inner space and convoluted unfoldings of chance and circumstance.

— Paul Di Filippo, The Washington Post, December 14, 2003

© 2003 The Washington Post Company



 

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