Schism by Brett Dent
File Size: 1088 KB
Print Length: 287 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
When I was a kid, I used to watch the Sonny Fox show, Wonderama, regularly on channel nine in New York. New York was the TV media hub of the world back then. In additional to channel nine, we also had two, four, five, seven, eleven, thirteen (CPB crap) and even a couple of grainy, unwatchable UHF channels. No idea what they were. The Soviet Movie Channel maybe?
One of Sonny's regular guests was The Amazing Randi. Randi was famous for following in the steps of Houdini by performing Amazing Escapes in all sorts of death defying situations (wriggling free of a straightjacket while suspended upside down over Niagara Falls, for instance.) As he grew older, Randi, as did Houdini, became a debunker of psychic charlatans. He drove fraudster Uri Geller out of the U.S. market by successfully reproducing every trick Geller performed in public and explaining how he did it.
In 1982 I read a book by Randi that has a profound impact on my thinking about ESP. Up till then, I as well as most people, thought there some scientific basis for a belief in extra sensory perception. After all, the brain generates an electric field and electrical fields can be generated and transmitted. Prestigious universities had conducted studies that seemed to confirm the existence of ESP. More movies than I can remember featured scenes of people using Zener cards surrounded by lab workers in white coats pursing their lips and making meaningful marks on clipboards while "espers" successfully "remote viewed." Sci-Fi, horror films, writers, manga all feed their readers regular diets of ESP.
Randi's book was called Flim Flam and it he made a claim that he has regularly backed up over the decades. Randy stated that when a double blind test for ESP is performed from which all possibilities of cheating are removed, no one has ever provided a valid (in other words, not a brief sequence of lucky guesses but a series of predictions that cannot statistically be ascribed to chance) demonstration of ESP.
Randi put his money where his mouth was. Back then, I think he offered a $25K reward to anyone who could demonstrate ESP. He's tested dowsers, remote viewers, seers, predicters, etc. None has collected the reward, which is now up to $1M. "Professional" espers stay well away from Randi and the money.
Schism by author Brett Dent takes ESP and puts it on a firmer scientific footing. The novel takes place in Hillview Institute, an out of the way institution in the hills of Virginia. Hillview's latest "visitor" is Adam Hutchinson, who has murdered his grandmother during what appears to be a psychotic attack. But instead of being tucked away in an asylum for the criminally insane, Adam finds himself in the company of a group of remote viewers, psychics who can observe actions and at a distance and in at least one case, destroy minds. Why are they here and what is the goal of the research taking place at the Insititute?
A safe bet is nefarious and dark deeds are underway. There are evil doctors, corrupt corporate interests, and nefarious military plots. And a group of increasingly powerful psychics growing more and more unhappy with their manipulation and confinement.
One of the interesting elements of Schism is Brett's successful effort to give ESP research a more scientific and visceral feel. This, coupled with the oppressive, Gothic atmosphere of the tale, makes for a story that keeps you interested. The characters are also engaging, most particularly the powerful but doomed Kevin. I found a few of Brett's sentences a bit gnarly, but plot and pacing keep Schism on track and compelling.
I think the Amazing Randi would like this book.
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