The novel “Mockymen” by Ian Watson was published for the first time in 2003.
Christine “Chrissy” Clark and her boyfriend Steve Bryant run a company that produces jugsaw puzzles who receive an unusual job offer when an elderly Norwegian man asks them to go to a park in Oslo and get photographed naked while they’re hugging statues. The proposal is strange but the man pays them well so they decide to accept.
The work seems finished but Chrissy and Steve have trouble in going back to their normal daily life. In particular, Chrissy starts having nightmares related to the photo shoot so she decides to investigate and discovers that the man who hired them was connected with Nazi occult practices. When she returns to Oslo she talks to a man she had met at the park and the situation has unexpected consequences.
Ian Watson is an author who typically writes novels that mix genres and subgenres by mixing their elements in ways that make labels limiting. In the case of “Mockymen” there’s a story that has a first part linked to the obsessions of the Nazis for occultism but what seem supernatural elements are later explained in science-fiction terms.
The problem begins for me in the second part with the way chosen by Ian Watson to continue the narration, which is totally different from the first part to the point that it seems a different story. There’s a leap forward in time of 18 years and there’s a reason but suddenly there are aliens on Earth of which the author says almost nothing even if the concept of the Mockymen of the novel’s title finally appears.
The first part is narrated in the first person by Chrissy, with the second part there’s a change of narrator. Anna Sharman, an agent of the British secret service, tells the rest of the novel in the first person. The reader starts getting to know her when she tries to reconstruct the events of the first part and that’s another problem for me because I just read those events so going over them was boring to me.
Later, in my opinion, “Mockymen” improves because Anna Sharman’s investigation allows Ian Watson to slowly reveal who are the aliens, their intentions and the reasons why they give humans, among other things, the drug called Bliss. At that point the novel is pure science fiction and shows this author’s great imagination when he gives phenomena considered supernatural pseudo-scientific explanations, though without details because he doesn’t write hard science fiction.
For me that’s still too uneven, a mix-up not well blended that continually changes its flavor. The impression is that a good part of the story, from Nazi occultism to the presence of aliens on Earth, is useful to Ian Watson to offer food for thought about the relationship between mind and body. The mix of genres allows the author to explore the issue from various points of view that include reincarnation and the transfer of a mind from one body to another using alien technologies.
Ian Watson has a tendency to write uneven stories, precisely because he writes works full of ideas that can be intriguing but are developed in a chaotic way. When he manages to keep that chaos under control, the author offers great stories but often has trouble managing that chaos and properly developing the various ideas in novels that are of limited length.
In the end, “Mockymen” is in my opinion a novel with a varying pace and characters generally functional to the plot and consequently with a limited development. In it I see the Ian Watson’s flaws more than his merits and consequently I was quite disappointed. If the characteristics that seemed negative to me are not a problem and you’re interested in its themes you might like it.