2012 May 04 • Friday
This is a 1966 paperback reprint of a 1954 sci-fi novel. Like many of these books, it's on the short side, only 168 pages. The whole thing could have been printed in a single fiction magazine, as many novels used to be.
It's about a man who discovers that he's telepathic and, being somewhat young and naïve, fails to keep this fact hidden. The government snaps him up and puts him to work as a human receiver for spies. Distance is no problem for his abilities, so an agent on the other side of the world transmits information to the telepath as soon as information becomes known.
A nice wrinkle is that the telepath's boss is basically evil and is exploiting this arrangement to increase and consolidate his own power. Our telepathic hero realizes this and sensibly keeps secret the fact that he has also mastered telekinesis.
It's an engaging book but it doesn't get up to much. It's the story of a person who has incredible, godlike powers but doesn't really use them. He does his spy job and eventually uses his powers to get revenge, but he never expresses any interest or curiosity in what else he could do.
There's some light discussion of whether he represents a new development in the evolution of the species but not much exploration of that or other ideas. It's mostly a book about somebody sitting in a house thinking and listening to other people's thoughts.
Still, it's something of a precursor to movies like ESPY and Scanners. I don't remember A. E. Van Voght's Slan (1940) too well, having read it a long time ago, but I think it did a lot more with the same basic idea.
The first line is "The microphones were dead, had been disconnected for many days".