Ian Winn's debut novel, The Techno Pagan Octopus Messiah, is nothing less than superb. It is a shame that Terrance McKenna, internet shaman, advocate of psychedelics, and author of Food of the Gods, he who had predicted the end of the Mayan calendar, did not live long enough to read it. Imagine if you would, a Jewish-American writer from California that is part Jack Kerouac, part William Burroughs, part Timothy Leary, part Paul Theroux, with a dash of Shirley MacLaine thrown in, and that is what you have in the novel and writings of one Ian Muir Winn (named after the Naturalist John Muir), a self-imagined messiah and the self-proclaimed Serpent Muse of Poetry. If you are a poet yourself, if you've ever attended a poetry slam, or have gone to hear poetry readings in the spoken-word circuit (Express Excess, Big Word, Babushka's, P's Place, Vice Verso), then you may have heard Ian Winn or heard someone else reading his work He is quite the rage in the U.K., having won most of the major Brit poetry slams. He also found his publisher, I.M.P. Fiction, in the golden isles Winn's debut novel, a thinly disguised autobiography, is the compelling journal of a person going outside his culture to find himself. His novel takes us on travels far - from Amsterdam to London, London to Cairo, Cairo to Rajastan, and from Rajastan to Goa, and many other parts of India in-between. Fleeing the U.S. after the nervous breakdown of his girlfriend Jaime, the novel begins as Ian Winn departs Heathrow Airport, ignoring all logic, by flying into Cairo two weeks after the massacre of two busloads of tourists at the Temple of Hatshepsut, in Luxor, Egypt - to meet his friend Moorlock (joke-leader of a group in California called Arm the Homeless) - whom he originally met at the Esalen Retreat Centre in Big Sur, California, while attending a workshop entitled Descent into Novelty given by Terrance McKenna. Ian, environmentalist, deskto
p publisher, former scuba diver, partaker of DMT, believer in Nostradamus, has experienced many prophetic astral dreams prior to his travel to Egypt, and thus he believes he is on a mission that started at the Burning Man Festival, that lead him to the Terrence McKenna conference where he befriended Moorlock, whose acquaintance took him to Egypt, and that this mission will take him onward to his eventual destination - a spiritual excursion through India. The pairs stay at the Akbar Hotel is fantastically real. The culture shock he experiences while in Cairo is even funnier. The whole time he's there, he can't seem to get over the fact that he's throwing down seven dollars a night to stay at an elegant hotel, where porters carried in his luggage, in the heart of a Third World city. His nihilistic view appears to be that "it pays to travel somewhere, especially after an incident or disaster." Moorlock and Ian stay for a while in Cairo, mostly partaking of alcohol and recreational drugs in the environs around the Akbar Hotel, or try to pick up the occasional French-speaking female tourist, and the duo experience many misadventures while in the attendance of two tour guides, both coincidentally named Mohammed. Moorlock is simply in Cairo with Ian on a vacation, but Ian is there for a purpose. The two travel on the cheap, and Ian's plan, believing that he has been chosen by a higher power, and following the call of Shiva, is to write a novel - and he has $5,000 to last him six months. Just before visiting the Pyramids of Chepren on an Arabian stallion named Za-bul, Moorlock and Ian get into a little confrontation at the stables with an Arab named Challied, during which a dagger is pulled by one, a butterfly knife by another, with the end result being our protagonist's lopping off of the top of his middle finger. "Crazy American!" What Ian is doing on his trip to the pyramid is of questionable san
ity to others. He's looking for a crystal he conjured in a dream, looking for something magical. Finding nothing mystical in the pyramid, they return to the stable, and then venture to the bazaars. Later that night, back at the stable and on its rooftop, after exiting the shop of an Egyptian oil extract merchant, Ian notices from a distance something twinkling in the middle of the Pyramid of Chepren. "Moorlock, do you see that?" "Yeah, it's probably a light fixture or something?" Moorlock nods blankly, and then, "Yeah, this is good bhango." His head swimming with richness and mystery, Ian returns a couple days later to the stables, this time taking an Arabian mare named Black Star from the Arab, Challied, for a four hour saunter back to the Pyramids, back to Chepren. He's kind of glad that his finger is still bleeding, as he changes his bandages. He believes that it is a good omen, and keeping him partially grounded, so that he's not too out there. Three times Ian has found a jewel inside his dreams of Egypt, once when he was twelve, once before he left the U.S., and once from the roof of the stable in Cairo. Now he plans to illegally climb the pyramid? "Come down! Not Safe!" ?and find the jewel he has been dreaming about. Halfway up the pyramid he notices something dark and round but just out of reach, just beyond his fingers. His head spins. As he digs the stone out of a crook in the rocks, a crowd of picnicking Egyptians has gathered far below at the base of the pyramid, and the tourist cops pursue him up the sandstone steps. Just as they nab him, he extracts his find, an egg-sized stone, a crystal purple Amethyst. During the ensuing stay at the Akbar Hotel, Ian discovers he can invade peoples dreams, and proceeds to invade a dream of his friend Moorlock one night, who is sleeping in a separate room, shortly before they are to part ways. A dream of meme theory. And during his stay
in Egypt, and throughout the novel, Ian's dreams are also invade by others, by gods, by mythical beings, by Thoth and other transpersonal entities. Two weeks later, Ian Muir Winn is in Mumbai, India, to meet Barry, an old college friend, and he and Moorlock have sourly parted ways, specifically after Ian reveals he had slept with Moorlock's former girlfriend, Mona, on Yom Kippur, shortly after his girlfriend Jaime had had her own nervous breakdown. Ian's plan is to travel with Barry, and write some text for Barry's promotional/coffee-table book, The International Silly Straw Experience. And it is there my friends, in Mumbai, that the true quest begins. To call this novel a New Age novel would be a really good thing, and the author closes the book by promising a sequel - a literary trip through Tibet. I can barely even wait! Though Winn has gained a reputation through his rhymes, and the chapters in the novel are bookended with his long poems, I found the poetry to be tedious after awhile. If the raps had been used a little more sparingly, it would have better served the book. Items of Interest: If you like this book, you might also like "On The Road," by Jack Kerouac, "The Camino," by Shirley MacLaine, "The Beach," by Alex Garland, "Surfing the Himilayas" by "Frederick Lenz", or "The Age of Kali" by William Dalrymple. Visit the Octopus himself at: http://octopusmessiah.com Information on India from India's #1 Online Community http://sulekha.com/ Some Fun Links: http://www.burningman.com http://images.burningman.com Burning Man Hotline - 1-415-TO-FLAME Some good Terrence McKenna links are here: http://www.alternativeculture.com/spirit/timewave.htm http://www.levity.com/eschaton/index.html http://www.swcp.com/mycowest/biob
its/tmckenna.htm Some thematically related books are: On The Road The Camino The Beach Surfing The Himilayas The Age of Kali
Ian Winn's freewheeling, global travelogue, which journeys along the hippie trail in search of enlightenment and spiritually enriching drug experiences.