Going into this I had very high hopes, which were somewhat let down. A book about hallucinogenic drugs and altered mind-states written by author of famed science fiction novel Brave New World (which, as of writing, I have yet to read). Being that I have dabbled in the use of psychedelics and studied countless writings on hallucinogens and alteration of mind-states, a topic that greatly fascinates me, not to mention my love for sci-fi, I really expected more from this.
I was deeply disappointed... mostly. Contained within the book are two parts: The Doors of Perception and Heaven & Hell, as the title informs. The Doors of Perception focuses on the author's experience with mescaline. I did not like it.
It comes off as preachy and even pretentious. Pretentious being a word I don't use loosely, seeing as how I feel it is often misused/misinterpreted and wrongly attributed to some truly great artistic and intellectual people. There's not even much psychology in here, and even less science. The author just goes on about there being a correct way of seeing the world and a layman's way. The former only achieved by a special certain few, such as artists or those who achieve said "vision" through drug-use. It's all boring and, to simply put it, fairly stupid.
Psychedelics, or drugs in general for that matter, do not unlock or expand parts of your mind. They merely allow you to look at things in a new, different way. They do not make you any smarter, save for the things learned through the experience of taking them. This is why many great musicians or artists are greatly, even directly, influenced by drugs, because with drugs they see things in a new light that many people never noticed before due to the routine of conventional thinking, which makes their art appear to be fresh and unique. Artistic even.
The second part is basically the same. However, what makes this book worth reading is the forty or so pages at the end of Heaven and Hell, entitled "Appendices". I found these pages to be the best and most fascinating. The author talks about pattern inducing stroboscopic lamps (something I was not very knowledgeable on), potential affects hallucinations had on religions in the past, the affect technology has had on art, and schizophrenia, among other things.
So yes, the appendices are better than the actual book. There wasn't really much in here that I wasn't already aware of, but even with the bulk of it being mediocre with the rest really shining, I can easily recommend this. Especially to those interested in altered mind-states or psychedelics, or even surrealism.