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I read this book most likely in the early 90s. I have quite a few details from the beginning of the book:

  • After some disaster or war, humans developed telepathy and walled off most of the outside world. They believe the rest of humanity to be dead and no one lives outside the wall. Telepathy is a requirement; after a certain age, if you haven't developed it you are killed. They have a strange term for telepathy, but I don't remember what it was.

  • Main protagonist is male. His wife was killed by the powers that be because she lost her telepathic bond after an illness. He therefore holds a grudge against his society. He also is able to do some mental tricks that technically aren't allowed, like placing suggestions in others' minds.

  • As it turns out, there are humans living in a primitive society on the other side of the wall. They live in a structured society segregated by gender. Men must eat out of red bowls and such, and the women must use stuff of another color. They are in a crisis because all the men are getting sick and dying; unbeknownst to them, the substance used to color the red items contains lead and is poisoning the men. The women decide to take matters into their own hands and break through the wall to kidnap some dudes, one of which is our protagonist.

There's also a character who has reached the cut off age but hasn't developed telepathy and is sentenced to die but ultimately gets rescued.

After these beginning details, I can't remember squat. I really want to reread this and discover how it ended.

  • +1 Welcome to SFF.SE! This is a solid first question! – Lexible Aug 22 '18 at 15:29
  • Thanks! Now I'm just hoping someone recognizes the story so I can finally scratch this itch... btw, like the screen name. I never did finish those books, sadly. – Amalthea Aug 24 '18 at 14:16
  • Screen name? "Lexible" is not from any books I know. Which books are you referring to? – Lexible Aug 24 '18 at 17:41
  • Sorry, I got confused-I saw the reference to "Mat Cauthon" above and thought that was who left the comment. Still getting used to this site! – Amalthea Aug 25 '18 at 18:15
6

Likely The Wall at the Edge of the World (1993) by Jim Aikin.

From Goodreads:

Trapped inside a walled city of telepaths in the Earth's distant past, Danlo Ree feels isolated and alone, until he is kidnapped by a band of wild humans who give him a taste of freedom.

More precisely, this review tackles a great deal of the plot points mentioned in the question:

  • Telepathy is a requirement; after a certain age, if you haven't developed it you are killed.

    Jim Aikin neatly inverts the trope of telepaths persecuted by "normals", showing us a society in which the inability to connect with others telepathically, being a "null" is a capital crime.

  • Main protagonist is male. His wife was killed by the powers that be because she lost her telepathic bond after an illness. He therefore holds a grudge against his society.

    The main character becomes alienated and secretly rebellious when his beloved wife loses that ability and is executed.

  • They have a strange term for telepathy, but I don't remember what it was.

    Danlo's society is literally walled off from the outside world, the wall marking the limited reach of their encompassing telepathic unity, the "Ktess".

    Sounds strange enough to me!

  • The women decide to take matters into their own hands and break through the wall to kidnap some dudes, one of which is our protagonist.

    When Danlo is kidnapped by wild null women he sees an opportunity to break free, but finds himself, for the first time, having to discover ways of communicating.


Found with the Google query walled city telepaths book site:goodreads.com.

  • 3
    I don't know how reliable the source is, but apparently the author only wrote two novels and eventually became a teacher of interactive fiction, it seems. Sounded unusual enough to be noted! – Jenayah Sep 12 '18 at 23:38
  • Yes! That is 100% the book- I recognized the cover when I found it on Amazon. And then sang a song of joy in my heart as I placed my order! Thank you so much! – Amalthea Sep 14 '18 at 0:04
  • @Amalthea glad to help! :) enjoy the read! – Jenayah Sep 14 '18 at 0:05
  • His site about interactive fiction is interesting...I guess you never know what paths life will lead you down. Thanks for that info, too! – Amalthea Sep 14 '18 at 0:06

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