Jonathan Glover is a professor of ethics at the School of Law, King's College, London. He has been intrigued by mental illness for many years, an interest that led him to Broadmoor Hospital to interview patients diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. Instead of using traditional psychological approaches to get them to open up, Glover engages them with Socratic questioning. His intent is to have them talk freely about their inner worlds. This proves to be a daunting process given the intense emotions of violent criminals or those diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia.

One of the many remarkable things about Alien Landscapes is that Glover's role as a philosopher and professor of ethics enables him to expand his research into the imaginative arena of literature and painting. There are some immensely insightful pieces here on Marcel Proust's autobiographical novel, Rembrandt's face in self-portrait, William Blake's visions, and Vincent Van Gogh's "heightened sense of reality."

Glover also includes his commentary on the impact of acting groups, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, who perform tragedies for patients at Broadmoor Hospital. A particularly dark chapter reveals the role of psychiatry in torture, involuntary sterilization, and mind-control.

Along the way, the author probes the yearning all people have for respect; the clash between values, the good life, and the boundaries of mental disorder; a look at personality and sexuality; the challenges of addictions; and the interplay between dementia, responsibility, and identity.