If “The Philosopher’s Stone” (1969) was a car, it would have a great big weld down the middle where author Colin Wilson had attached the (frankly rather turgid) H.G.Wells-style front end to the (actually reasonably OK) H.P.Lovecraft-style back end. It makes me wants to shout in his face: Oi, Wilson, No – the beginning is usually the wrong place to start your story.
Really, he should have dropped all his faux logical positivism guff (drearily moving the main character forward one atom at a time) and instead started from about page 190. Then, just three pages from the end, when the main character’s mind is temporarily merged [a bit Mr Spock-y, but what the hey] with the mad God-like uber-priest K’tholo, Wilson could easily have punted the story off into an even higher state of Lovecraft emulation (but moved forward to the present day)… now that would have been a nice slice of occult horror to read. But he didn’t. 🙁
Including the Voynich Manuscript is a nice piece of intellectual decoupage on Wilson’s part, but feels a bit like collateral damage from his high-speed drive-by scattershot blasts at culture, philosophy and history – Bruckner, Merleau-Ponty, George Bernard Shaw, Plato, de Maupassant, the Popol Vuh, etc – which fill most of the book.
Still, if you fancy reading a Lovecraftian short story disguised as a novel, you shouldn’t be too disappointed. *sigh*