The novel “The Mind Parasites” by Colin Wilson was published for the first time in 1967.
When Dr. Gilbert Austin discovers that his friend Karel Weissman has committed suicide, he remains shocked. He can’t believe that a man he knew well could do such a thing but the issue becomes even more shocking when Austin starts reading the papers Weissman left him and discovers that his friend was convinced that humanity is under the attack of a kind of mental cancer.
Those events have a profound effect on Gilbert Austin’s archaeological research as well when he discovers the existence of the remains of a civilization so ancient that it’s buried at a depth never seen. Along with other colleagues, Austin tries to study those ancient ruins but with surprise when he tries to find traces of some memories of their builders he discovers them in the writings of writer H.P. Lovecraft.
Colin Wilson became famous with a philosophical text and kept on writing but over the years expanded his work to literature, writing mostly mystery works to get at some point into science fiction. He had accidentally discovered the works of H.P. Lovecraft but initially didn’t have a great impression, criticizing them in a book. After starting a correspondence with August Derleth, a writer himself but also editor of Lovecraft’s works, he got essentially challenged to write a lovecraphic work better than Lovecraft.
“The Mind Parasites” was Colin Wilson’s response to August Derleth’s challenge but it’s certainly not an “orthodox” lovecraftian work, in the sense that it contains elements of the Cthulhu Myths but was developed mainly around Wilson’s typical ideas. In essence, like the essays but also various among the author’s novels and short fiction, the story explores a series of mental skills that are latent in almost all human beings, in this case in connection with the existence of mysterious mind parasites connected with lovecraftian mythology.
The novel’s structure is a variant of the classic manuscript that someone else brings to the attention of the public some time after it’s written. In the case of “The Mind Parasites” it’s a collection of writings but also transcripts of tapes recorded by the protagonist Gilbert Austin, who tells in the first person his discoveries and his fight against the mind parasites.
In the end, the originality of “The Mind Parasites” is in the way Colin Wilson mixed a remarkable set of heterogeneous elements that taken individually were already trite. The author mentions scientists who actually existed and various artists then adds many speculation that are far from scientific. Wilson didn’t care about their likelihood but wanted to find the right ingredients for a “recipe” and didn’t mind if any of them didn’t make sense even when he wrote the novel.
The best thing about “The Mind Parasites” is that Colin Wilson managed to write a story as well, not just a chain of speculations and a series of quotes. It’s certainly not an action novel but at least the beginning triggers a chain of events and the discovery of mind parasites with a growing clash between them and the protagonists creates a certain tension. However, sometimes the author starts long parts about many details of his speculations.
For these reasons, the pace of the novel tends to be slow and the characters are little developed, functional to the plot. Many Colin Wilson’s fans consider “The Mind Parasites” his masterpiece, unfortunately his style tends to make it difficult for me to read his works, especially because his protagonists tend to be incredibly prolific wordy in their tales.
I found this novel far better than “The Philosopher’s Stone“, in which he reuses the themes of mental skills with a lovecraftian element but at a slower pace. Overall, it also seemed to me better than “The Space Vampires“, where he reuses the concepts of Life Force and parasitism.
If you have no problems with a novel that’s almost an essay with a plot used to develop more or less philosophical reflections in details and without a scientific likelihood, you might like “The Mind Parasites”.