Ron Rosenbaum

Moonwalk Reflections (3): Best, Well, Strangest, Novel You've Never Heard Of

Or maybe you have. I ran across it in a stripmall on Cape Canaveral when I was down on “the Space Coast” ( as the liked to call it) covering the first space shuttle launch.

The stripmall featured both an actual strip joint (featuring strippers who started out wearing space suits–I swear!) and a used bookstore. Anyhow, while spending some time in the used book store I came upon a dustty copy of a novel called The Martian Inca by the English sci-fi writer Ian Watson.

I’d stoped reading sci-fi for the most part, because of the heavy handed profoundity that so many of its writers overlarded their fantasies with, most likelyin an effort to escae the aura of literary unseriousness that–for better or worse–hung over the genre. But this novel blew me away.

It was about (on a basic plot level) Mars missions, one returning,one arriving on the red planet. But it was about much more, the nature of conciousness, the evolution of consicousness, the interpenetration of time, space and consicousness. It ultimately had the effect of what I imagine a yage vision might be like. And wow, what a surprize to find it on a strip mall with a strip joint with space suited strippers.

It stayed in my imagination for a long time, but got lost, probably in one of my storage spaces until 2005, nearly a quarter century later, I tracked it down through Amazon/Abebooks. (Now I see through his website Watson has become an established figure in advanced sci-fi circles. (read his memoir of working with Kubrick on the site).

Dicscovering The Martian Inca made the whole disappointing space-shuttle launch experience more worth while. It’s far more thought- provoking than those lumbering science fair vehicles (which, in their killer flaws and constant failures and short-sighted ambitions did more to disrupt planetary exploration than anyhthing else). The Watson novel is a more profound exploration of inner space than those tin cans could ever hope to offer.

Check it out, I won’t spoil it by trying to explain it further, I’m not sure I even understand it, but I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s read it.