The Water of Thought – Fred Saberhagen (1965)
‘Drink Earthman, and all will be revealed to you!
WAS THAT THE KEY TO A WORLD FORGOTTEN?
One explorer had already disappeared on the primitive planet, Kappa. So the day that a second Terrestrial, Jones, ran away after drinking the sacred Kappan water that he had coerced the natives into giving him, the remaining planetologists meant to find out just what was going on.
Questioning the aliens only deepened the mystery. For they said that what Jones had drunk would enable him to communicate with his animal ancestors. It was their most precious and sacred possession.
But how could it affect a person never born on Kappa, a person without such ‘animal’ ancestors? What had really happened to Jones and the other man – and what would happen if either of them managed to bring this incredible liquid back to Earth?’
Blurb from the 1965 Ace Doubles Edition (M-127)
Boris Brazil is a planeteer. He is currently visiting the planet Kappa with his girlfriend Brenda, en route to somewhere else.
It’s not clear what planeteers actually do, although they seem to have some quasi official status and are issued with power suits which allow them to crush things with their gloved hands and run very fast. Another planeteer, Edmund Jones, is also on Kappa unofficially, on an anthropological project of his own.
Kappa has a small colony of Earth humans and an extant species of humanoids, as well as a race of hominids that the native species employ as slaves.
At the outset Jones decides to try a liquid offered to him by a native Shaman and then runs off. When he does not return Boris sets out after him. Jones has tried the Water of Thought, a local substance that has differing effects on humans. Boris, having drunk some, finds himself completely under Jones’ control and forced to obey his every command.
Jones is determined to find the source of the water which is of interest to others. The Mayor of the human colony is selling the water as a drug while a scientist, Magnuson, is using it in an attempt to raise the local hominids to a sapient level.
It is up to Boris to find a way to escape his own slavery, scupper the plans of the drug dealers and discover the secret of the Water of Thought.
There’s no real science here. Saberhagen is looking at issues of exploitation, slavery and colonialism but doesn’t break any fresh ground.
See also ‘The Golden People’