EDEN, by Ken Wisman

EDEN, by Ken Wisman book coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Authorhouse
Published: 2004
Reviewer Rating: three and a half stars
Book Review by Ray Wallace

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I was quite eager to read Ken Wisman’s EDEN. After all, it’s not every day you come across a novel inspired by the author’s experiences while under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance. What sort of work would this be? Would it in any way resemble the crazed psychosexuality of Burroughs’s NAKED LUNCH, or the more sedate, philosophical discussions of Carlos Castaneda’s famous Don Juan books, or maybe a little of both? Neither? I soon discovered that EDEN, at its heart, is a science fiction novel, one that revolves around the concept of extreme bioengineering and the consequences that must be faced when such an advanced science falls into the wrong hands. The book is also interspersed with author’s notes which depict in detail the previously mentioned hallucinogenic experiences and the rather profound influences they had on the author’s life and writing. There is some of the Castaneda here but very little of the Burroughs. Mr. Wisman’s book is a neat and concise manuscript, written between drug-induced journeys of the mind in a rather clinical tone and often has the feel of a travelogue to it. Albeit one relating a voyage to a particular world, I think it’s safe to say, the rest of us will never visit.

Alepha is the name of the fictional part of the book’s main character, a young woman we first meet aboard a starship traveling to the exotic, distant world of Eden. She is a member of an elite group of artists who have been brought together so that they can use their imaginations to envision the lifeforms which will be created to inhabit this deserted planet. A number of scientists and technicians have made the journey also. They will be the ones charged with the task of bringing these fantastic beings to life, of working with the artists to ensure that their designs are actually physically feasible. These lifeforms will be molded from a substance called Proteus Dough – – or ProDo, for short – – which is a spectacularly expensive, clay-like substance made up of living cells. For a while, all seems well on Eden. Early creative attempts are met with general enthusiasm. The project’s main sponsor is pleased with the way things are going. And Alepha finds love, possibly the one true love she had been promised in a vision years before. What could possibly go wrong?

Iamoendi could go wrong. This introverted, brooding artist has been using illegal drugs to enhance his inventiveness, mind-altering substances that have apparently released the dark, ugly side of his nature. His urge to create has been warped into a need to destroy. Soon Alepha and her friends find themselves at war with this unbalanced individual who has been busy creating insect-like monstrosities to launch attacks on those he sees as his enemies. And here, in his portrayal of these living weapons brought into being by both the forces of light and darkness, is where the author’s imagination excels. Mutations, mostly of the insect and arachnid variety, of every size and description, designed with various tactical capabilities, are created and thrown into the fray. Cut off from any possible hope of rescue, this is truly a battle to the death in which only one side can hope to prevail.

The other part of this book, the author’s notes, is a frank and interesting look into the creative processes behind this rather unconventional work. Over a three year period, Mr. Wisman experimented with an unnamed hallucinatory substance. While off on his journeys he visited many strange and exotic places, found himself communicating with an alien intelligence, and developed most of the ideas and philosophies that went into the fictional tale of EDEN – – including his “impetus-to-life” theory, the belief that life is one of the fundamental principles of the universe, that there is a ubiquitous, internal force within molecules that causes them to attract when conditions are right and create life.

Overall, EDEN is a commendable work, an insightful and entertaining read that, at its heart, is an ode to the vision and creativity of the human mind. The author should be applauded, if not for the methods utilized in the book’s creation, at least for his openness in discussing them. EDEN is sure to have its critics. Undoubtedly, any members of the anti-drug crowd will label this a pro-drug book which it is not. Mr. Wisman does not recommend his approach to others. He doesn’t even name the substance which inspired him. What he does relate is how, at a certain point in his life, such experimentation worked for him. Would it work for others? Who knows? All I can say is pick up a copy of EDEN, give it a read, and find your own answers to these and other questions raised within its pages.

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