Chayefsky-Paddy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Social Commentary

#908 Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky

Altered States by Paddy ChayefskyAltered States by Paddy Chayefsky

Jessop is a scientist. He’s heard about this great thing down in South America. People gather in a group and they take a local drug and have a spiritual experience. Jessop has already been experimenting with sensory deprivation tanks and thinks that he can add this drug to his regimen. He takes the drug back to his lab, with the tanks, and starts to experiment.

Meanwhile, Jessop gets married. His wife isn’t sure of his devotion to her, even though she loves him.

Something strange happens to Jessop when he’s taking the drug in the tank. He hallucinates the heck, out of things, but he kind of turns into an ape, or ape-like creature. He thinks he’s gone back through his genetic ancestry to a time when the missing link between humans and apes lived and walked upon the Earth. One incident has Jessop waking up in the zoo after a night of romping with a bunch of wild dogs, as an ape creature.

Can the research continue after this pivotal moment? Is it getting too dangerous? Is there physical proof of this thing happening? No one else saw Jessop turning into an ape, maybe he was just tripping his balls off.

What I liked

My boyfriend, Grizzly Pirate Wynn, asked me to read this book because he likes it. It’s short and I want to be able to discuss books with my boyfriend, so I read it. I really like that my boyfriend has an interest in books. I actually think he’s spent more money on books than I have since we’ve been together. Crazy.

I like the thought that went into this book. Certainly there was a question involved, or more than one question actually. Can we ever revert to a former genetic place in our history? Is there an outside substance that can cause you to do so, if it’s possible to revert back genetically?

I kind of want to try a sensory deprivation tank. I think it would be nice. I love being in the dark and quiet, especially when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe I would just fall asleep in a sensory deprivation tank.

What I didn’t like

I do not think this is possible. In fact, I’m pretty sure this isn’t possible. I’m just going to say it’s not possible. Whether you believe we descended from monkeys or lizard people, we cannot revert back to some former genetic state. We cannot jump ahead, nor can we go back. I can’t suddenly take something that makes me what a human will be like in a thousand years, which is probably fairly similar to today because we’ve been the same for a while. I can’t revert back to an amoeba or ape or whatever. Genetics don’t go backwards. Elephants can’t turn into Mastodons

The fanciful element of this book is interesting, but entirely not possible, not even fringe science possible, not even healing crystals with your chakras possible, not even snake oil possible.

I also don’t do drugs. So the drug part of this book wasn’t really my thing. I mean, it’s cool if you somehow have a spiritual experience while dropping acid, but that’s a thin line. You can’t be dropping acid every time you need to pray to Jesus over your lost car keys.


Bath salts and a big tub, sounds like a great idea.

Weigh In

Would you do a hallucinogenic drug and get in a sensory deprivation tank?

If you could go forward or backward in the evolution of human kind, which direction would you go and why? Remember, there’s no guarantee that humans will be better in the future.

#908 Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky was originally published on One-elevenbooks


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