And while I of course had seen the 1971 Pstalemate on the shelves as a kid, I never picked it up...until recently, that is. Actually, I bought a copy at The Reading Place in Charlotte, MI, and then, maybe a year later, I apparently forgot I had it, so I picked up a different edition in the local library’s basement sale... Anyway, I finally pulled one off the shelf a few days ago and read the thing—definitely worth waiting for.
Below is the review I did at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1031264524?book_show_action=false.
Lester del Rey's 1971 Pstalemate is an intriguing and nuanced tale of a man who suddenly realizes--despite his disdain for what he regards as merely a "current fad in science fiction," despite his singular lack of luck at any sort of guessing games, and despite apparent common sense--that he himself possesses psionic power.
It makes no sense to bight young mechanical engineer Harry Bronson. Or...well, does it? Occasionally, after all, Harry has flashes of inexplicable dread, or even voices seeming to call him. His complete failure at guessing Rhine cards, moreover, actually is just a little too complete, a statistical aberration no less than had he gotten them all correct. And certainly his own past is strangely shrouded, with all memories of life before age ten, and of the death of his parents, now lost to amnesia.
But telepathy exists, the unwilling Harry discovers, and even precognition, too. His own parents had set up some kind of colony or commune of believers, now disbanded, of which little is known anymore, and he begins as well to be able to sense the mental presence of others like him in sprawling New York City. Yet he senses also something he can term only "the alien entity," a force utterly unknowable and frightening, and which seems to be trying to take possession of him.
Extrasensory perception, a researcher's lifelong notes reveal, first truly manifested itself following a mutation caused by petrochemical pollution just three generations earlier. Yet although the people whom the increasingly sensitive Harry from a distance comes to recognize as fellow telepaths seem, in general, more decent than the average human being, he begins to realize that he finds only the young, never the old...for some intrinsic factor of the mutation drives all to inescapable madness. And now Harry's precognition tells him exactly how long he has: three months, and then descent into the living hell of insanity.
Despite his delayed awareness of his abilities, Harry Bronson actually may be the strongest telepath still living. But he has only three months to solve the mystery of himself, lest he lose his own self, and this strange mutation prove merely an evolutionary dead end rather than a transformative quantum leap in consciousness. As Harry and his new wife, once his childhood friend and a telepath as well, race desperately for an answer, Lester Del Rey explores with subtlety and insight the very fundamentals of the human condition--growth and maturity, love and sexuality, and the nature of consciousness--and thereby gives an exciting, intriguing, sometimes touching story.
20 August 2014