Jack of Eagles – James Blish (1952)
‘Danny Caiden has always thought of himself as a normal guy: an ordinary young American with no special talents leading an ordinary, uneventful life.
Normal, that is, until he suddenly realises he can see into the future.
Before he knows it, Danny has developed a dozen more alarming powers, lost his job, run foul of the FBI – and found himself at the centre of a shattering psychic struggle for the future of humanity…’
Blurb from the 1975 Arrow paperback edition.
Although a minor Blish novel this, for its time, employs serious scientific principles and what must have been cutting edge technology to explore and justify the existence of ESP ‘talents’.
Danny Caiden, a young writer for a US food publication, is concerned by occasional ‘flashes’ of precognition, a concern which becomes of vital importance when he is sacked for writing a about a pending indictment of a wheat company for price-fixing; a report for which he has no evidence.
Once fired, he visits a fortune-teller, attracts the attention of her young assistant, then decides to cash in on his talent by playing the stock market and gambling on horse-races.
Although he wins in both cases, it attracts the attention of both the FBI and the organisation behind the illegal gambling, and he is forced to go on the run where he eventually ends up in the hands of a Psychic Research group; a brotherhood of psi-talented men who want to either initiate him into their ranks or kill him.
It’s a short but fast-paced book, taking in not only the ESP talents such as psychokinesis, telepathy and precognition, but also the concept of parallel worlds.
It suffers from a surfeit if characters and a lack of development of the main characters. Todd, for instance, who is a vital character, does little during the novel and is then kidnapped, only to reappear at the end to help Danny save the world from a psychokinetic madman.