From Wikipedia: “Tom Wallace lived an ordinary life, until a chance event awakened psychic abilities he never knew he possessed. Now he’s hearing the private thoughts of the people around him and learning shocking secrets he never wanted to know. But as Tom’s existence becomes a waking nightmare, even greater jolts are in store as he becomes the unwilling recipient of a message from beyond the grave.”
I’m almost certain I saw this movie at some point, but remember almost nothing about it. It’s somehow gotten combined with the Bill Paxton movie Frailty which, for those who haven’t seen it, is kind of like Supernatural, but with Bill Paxton.
So, I guess my point is that I didn’t really know what I was getting into, here. Which is probably a good thing, because “hypnotism” isn’t exactly a huge mark in this books favor. I wouldn’t read that as part of a book’s synopsis and think the book was really worth my time. And, given the way the more fantastical elements of What Dreams May Come are framed (review to be published soon), I would’ve assumed that this book was built on a precarious foundation. Paranormal abilities (such as telepathy) are presented here as scientific fact – in a way that seems emblematic of the book’s era. I’m reminded of the show Unsolved Mysteries or Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of…., where paranormal abilities are presented as proven scientific realities. I’m not sure whether the last fifteen or twenty years has seen a cultural rejection of this particular kind of pseudo-science, or if I’ve simply out grown it, but when psychic powers are presented as a real thing, my eyes start rolling.
Which, obviously, sounds pretty disparaging for this book – but I bring all this up to say that the book may feel a bit dated in some ways, but it’s still highly enjoyable.
This is less a ghost story, and more a thought experiment on how quickly one’s life can fall apart following the gifting of the ability to read minds. Tom Wallace’s life isn’t improved by what happens – he nearly loses everything. It’s The Monkey’s Paw or The Invisible Man. Telepathy is a curse that nearly drives his wife insane and almost destroys his family.
And with that in mind, I think this book mostly works. It’s an interesting character study, and is surprisingly dark for the time period (published in 1958).
This falls just shy of 5 stars, though, because I felt like the wife (whose name I’ve already forgotten) came off as unnecessarily hapless. Not overtly sexist, perhaps, but problematic. She seemed to totally lack any understanding of what was going on, or have any sympathy for what her husband was going through. But I think her problems were a relatively small part of her character, and didn’t take too much away from the book. The bigger issue, for me, was the “antagonist” (for lack of a better term) monologuing at the end of the book. It’s such a ham-fisted technique for explaining plot points that can’t be worked in more subtly, and it never works.
But apart from those two things, I fully recommend this book.
Reviewed once before (for CBR4) by KatSings. It was given 1 star (harsh).