Here’s the little I can recall from this book I read in the early 1970s:

  • It involved psychic, or perhaps telepathic, young people (I don’t think they were children, maybe more like teenagers, though I can’t be sure).
  • I’m inclined to remark that one of the main characters was a little reticent or unwilling to accept his (or her) powers or attributes.
  • It took the involvement of others with similar powers to have the main character accept how things were.
  • I think the ending involved one of the main characters being persuaded to join the others in some sort of group, or common endeavour (this is just a very vague recollection).
  • It took place in a fairly ordinary, everyday setting.
  • 4
    The Chyrsalids? Apr 28, 2020 at 3:09
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    I don't think this is an answer but compare to The Children's Room scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/146667/… Apr 28, 2020 at 4:26
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    Makes me think about "To Ride Pegasus" by Anne McCaffrey, or one of the other 'Talent' books. They set up a group to help and protect psi people.
    – mwarren
    Apr 28, 2020 at 7:05
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    Without more specific information i can't be sure - though it reminds me of a book about psychic powers, where a teen goes to a boarding school and discovers several of the other teens there unknowingly have psychic powers - he helps them unlock their abilities and in the end he unlocks his as well. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of my book either.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 28, 2020 at 13:34
  • This reminds me of a book I don’t remember the title of either, but recall a few things about. One of the kids with special powers was someone who wore thick glasses, and perhaps lacked depth perception. Someone was turning into a lizard person. At one point, the main character rubbed a pencil lightly over a paper pad to reveal what had been written on the previous sheet of paper, and saw a drawing of a lizard person. Does any of that sound familiar?
    – Lithis
    Apr 28, 2020 at 15:18

11 Answers 11


Possibly The Chrysalids (also called Re-birth) by John Wyndham (1955). The setting is a small settlement in Labrador some centuries after a nuclear apocalypse; the survivors rigorously weed out any mutation. The narrator, David Strorm, discovers to his chagrin that he himself is a mutant with the ability to communicate from miles away with other children who act as a support group. When they are discovered, the persecution begins and the group tries to gather and escape. For more information, see the Wikipedia article here. And here is a list of editions.

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    Thanks for the suggestion, but having read the synopsis of The Chrysalids, there's too much religion, too much about a society fighting to adapt and survive, etc. In the story I read it was much more about the discovery of these powers/talents in a more everyday environment. Apr 28, 2020 at 9:00
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    Similarly, the other suggestions given are appreciated but the plot overviews don't match my memories. Apr 28, 2020 at 9:07
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    @GavinHorrocks When you say "in a more everyday environment" do you mean a contemporary - for the 1960/70s - Earth setting? If so, that is a major piece of useful information you should add to the question; for starters, it eliminates just about everything by Andre Norton.
    – DavidW
    Apr 28, 2020 at 13:25
  • To Zibbobz- Thanks for your comments/suggestion. I can't remember the school aspect to the story, but it's a possibility nonetheless. I only wish I recalled more than I do. Many thanks, Gavin Apr 28, 2020 at 14:59

Could this be The Tomorrow People? It was a 1970s TV show, but there were novelisations.

All incarnations of the show concerned the emergence of the next stage of human evolution (Homo novis) known colloquially as Tomorrow People. Born to human parents, an apparently normal child might at some point between childhood and late adolescence experience a process called 'breaking out' and develop special paranormal abilities. These abilities include psionic powers such as telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. However, their psychological make-up prevents them from intentionally killing others.

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    You just beat me to it. Growing up in the 80s with a very good second-hand bookshop in town, I found the Tomorrow People spinoff novelisations before I realised there was an older TV show that spawned them.
    – Graham
    Apr 29, 2020 at 9:48
  • I can beat your second-hand bookshop - they had the novelisations in my school library! Also my first encounter with the Tomorrow People.
    – TenMinJoe
    Apr 29, 2020 at 13:23
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    The OP's description is a very good match to the first episode (which was one of the novelisations), where Stephen was starting to hear other people's thoughts and experiencing problems with his powers, before the others come to help him. I still remember the trailer for this episode very clearly and this was the first thing I thought of
    – Dragonel
    Apr 29, 2020 at 22:03
  • Novel covers can be seen at abebooks.co.uk/book-search/title/the-tomorrow-people/author/…
    – Dragonel
    Apr 29, 2020 at 22:08
  • Also note there were two revivals, the last in 2013.
    – Sulthan
    May 1, 2020 at 6:13

This isn't a perfect match, but since you're pretty vague about some aspects - only thing I could think of was Escape to Witch Mountain (1968).

Young, telepathy and other psychic powers. Eventually meet up with others of their own kind.

Subsequent movies made it fairly well-known.

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    Thank you for the suggestion> having researched the plot line, I don't think this is the one. However, I appreciate the suggestion. Apr 28, 2020 at 22:30

The Golden People by Fred Saberhagen. Several gifted children and one ungifted child live and school together at a professor's home. It turns out the ungifted child was gifted but never told (as a control group).

'In secret laboratories far from Earth he used his powers to create 100 genetically perfect children'

Ray Kedro at 14 is a competent brawler and protects Adam Mann, an esper, from a bunch of esper-phobic bullies. He becomes friends with Adam Mann and his 98 friends, who all have some kind of ESP ability. They eventually all investigate an alien technology on another planet and Ray is informed he is one of the 100 genetically adapted children and two of his 'siblings' begin helping develop his skill.

Available on the Internet Archives: The Golden People : Saberhagen

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    Hi, thanks for suggestion. For a few moments I got excited because I thought you were onto something, but then the bit about 'far from Earth' stumped me because I was sure my book was more of a normal environment. also The Golden people ws published in 1984, I think, which does not match my time frame either. Nonetheless, I rally appreciate you trying to help. Apr 28, 2020 at 22:13

Possibly "More Than Human" by Theodore Sturgeon, stories about groups of psionic children coming together to form new gestalt entities, like fingers are parts of a hand. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_Than_Human

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    Could you edit this to be a bit more descriptive in terms of how it matches the description?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Apr 28, 2020 at 20:44
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    Thanks for the suggestion for which I researched (Wiki) and although elements of the plot seemed similar, there was rather a lot that seemed very unfamiliar and so I don't think this was the one. However, thanks for the suggestion. Apr 28, 2020 at 22:20
  • That one, or at least the novella that became the middle third of it, was actually the third candidate that popped into my head right after I read the original post. Later, as I checked the existing answers, I noticed you had already nominated it, and had it rejected. I've now posted an answer about the first thing that popped into my head. If that doesn't do the trick, I may have to consider posting a separate answer about the second contender that occurred to me.
    – Lorendiac
    Apr 29, 2020 at 23:24
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    I thought this (or rather, Baby Is Three) is the answer. Especially because Gerry, the main character and "head" of the new superorganism, is "reticent" and does not accept his new role easily. Apr 30, 2020 at 15:35
  • @GavinHorrocks Check out the original novella Baby Is Three which is available online. It is a rather perfect fit of your description. It is also a classic, which makes it likely to be encountered in a story collection. It is, in any case, a great read. Apr 30, 2020 at 15:42

I think it might be 'To Ride Pegasus' or 'Get Off The Unicorn' by Anne McCaffrey. These books include stories about the early years of the 'Talents'.

Quote Wikipedia

To Ride Pegasus originates the fictional premise of the Talents universe, the setting for seven novels published 1990 to 2000: two more "Pegasus" books and five "Tower and Hive" books. All eight books feature so-called Talents, people with psionic powers such as empathy, telepathy, teleportation, telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition, and the ability to find what is lost ('finders').

Pegasus is a symbol for Talent, early adopted by Henry Darrow: "You'd see a lot from the > back of a winged horse ..." (p. 11). "When you ride the winged horse, you can't dismount. ... We'll find our bridle, I think, with time and training and more practice at riding"

The main characters set up an institution that helps and protects 'Talents' with legal aid, salaries, housing etc. on a main campus and in the community.

  • Thank you, but I'm sorry it's not what I'm looking for. Thanks for the suggestion, however. Apr 30, 2020 at 20:15

As you may have guessed by now, considering that nine other answers have already been offered, what you're describing is a common premise in novels of speculative fiction: The story of a young person who has, either consciously or subconsciously, blocked/suppressed/hidden-from-others/whatever his (or her) strong psychic potential, for one reason or another -- such as the fear of being burnt at the stake as a witch -- but who ultimately ends up learning to make good use of telepathy and/or other "psychic powers." But there was one old science fiction novel in particular which sprang into my mind first when I was reading your post, and I see it hasn't been mentioned in any of the previous answers you've received, so I'm going to take the plunge! (If this doesn't work, I may have to reexamine some of the candidates which popped into my head a bit later on.)

Pstalemate, by Lester del Rey. First published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 1971. (Which matches nicely with your recollection of running across this story in the early 1970s, when it would have been a new arrival in bookstores and libraries.) I checked out a copy from a library, somewhere around the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Here's a cover-scan from what was apparently the first edition. It might ring a bell in your memory? (There were other editions later, with various other cover illustrations, but I'm not going to cram them all into this post.)

Book jacket from first edition of Pstalemate

Partially from memory, and partially from online resources to assist my memory, I will give a quick summary of the plot -- mainly how it is set up in the first few chapters -- to illustrate how this story matches pretty well with the points you listed.

  1. I don't recall any exact dates being given, but the book seems to be set in what was "modern times" when it was written. In other words, somewhere in the USA, with appropriate technology and social customs from around the late 60s/early 70s. (Therefore, no "futuristic" technology was in common use that didn't yet exist in reality, such as flying automobiles, or interstellar spaceships, or even everybody having a personal smartphone in his or her pocket.) That matches with your recollection of what would have been an "ordinary, everyday setting" at the time you read it.

  2. The protagonist is Harry Bronson, a sincere young mechanical engineer. Early in the book, he is persuaded to let an old friend at a relaxed social gathering test him for telepathic ability. Nothing fancy; the friend (Dr. Lawson) will just go through a deck of cards, one at a time, holding each one so that he and at least one other witness can see what the card is, but Harry can't, and asking Harry to name whatever card he thinks is currently showing. They keep written notes. On the first run-through, Harry says whatever guess pops into his head for each card, and after they've gone through an entire deck, he is told his score was a big fat zero -- he didn't get a single one right!

  3. Harry is not heartbroken by that result. He humorously suggests that this means he is one of the least psychic people alive, or words to that effect. Dr. Lawson argues the point, claiming that total failure is just as significant as a perfect success rate would have been. If Harry were making a long series of purely random guesses, he should have gotten at least a couple of 'em right by the law of averages -- and the fact that he didn't is strong evidence that Harry has considerable psychic potential, and something in his brain is subconsciously refusing to let him make a correct "guess" about any of those cards, for fear of what might happen! (In other words, if a correct "guess" started to creep into his head on a psychic wavelength, his subconscious supposedly stifled that thought in a hurry and substituted a guaranteed-to-be-wrong "guess" instead, which would be what Harry ended up voicing at the time.)

  4. Harry finds that argument less than totally persuasive (and I'm not saying I blame him), but Dr. Lawson hypnotizes him to try to overcome the alleged subconscious block, and then they test Harry again, on a double deck of playing cards (apparently including 2 Jokers per deck, for a grand total of 108 cards in a row, according to one reviewer).

  5. This time, Harry finds himself visualizing a card each time, and writes down what he "sees" in his mind's eye, and when he's done, he is told that he got a perfect score --- 108 matches out of a possible 108, which is so incredibly unlikely to happen by sheer chance that it's not even worth considering the possibility that nothing more than a statistical anomaly was happening here. (Again, all this is according to Dr. Lawson, who seems to have a secret personal agenda here, as I noticed when I was first reading the book.) Harry finds himself feeling terrified by this discovery and the implications, although he is not sure why.

  6. As he tries to go about his everyday life, he keeps experiencing more and more evidence that he is now an "unblocked" functioning telepath whose brain is learning how to do things it never did before (not that he can recall, anyway). He touches base with a girl named Ellen whom he hadn't seen in a long time. It gradually becomes clear that Ellen is also telepathic, and that other telepaths exist in the world (including Harry's mother and also one of Ellen's parents -- each of these two young people apparently had inherited the talent), but you don't run into functioning telepaths very often because full-fledged telepathy has this nasty habit of driving the possessor totally insane. Harry's long-lost mother, for instance, is still locked up in an asylum, and has been for many years, ever since she set the house on fire when Harry was a ten-year-old boy, nearly killing him. Other telepaths either go totally psychotic or commit suicide or otherwise are removed from general circulation. From online reviews, I get the impression this usually happens by around age 30 or thereabouts. (I can't remember if an average age was stated in the book.)

  7. Just in case Harry didn't have enough to worry about yet, the author allows him to start noticing he also has a precognitive power which gives him glimpses of himself having psychotic hallucinations or something along those lines -- about three months in the future. This gives him a hard-and-fast deadline for trying to figure out a way to avoid the descent into madness which his mother and various other telepaths have suffered. (Ellen isn't feeling all that mentally stable, either. Meanwhile, the two of them appear to be falling in love.)

  8. I don't fully remember the details of the novel's climax (although some online resources helped remind me), but there does seem to be a happy ending for Harry and Ellen. I won't ruin such details as I remembered and/or have found by Googling; I'll just say that while I found much of this book to be very depressing when I read it, many years ago, I found some comfort in the thought that the protagonist and his girlfriend were apparently going to "break the cycle" by staying sane for many years to come while raising children. (They either had married, or were planning to marry, by the end of the novel.)

If that description, or any substantial portion of it, stirs up some old memories in your head, then we're probably talking about the same novel. In case you decide you want to read or reread it to check, I did a little Googling. Pstalemate does not appear to have had any English-language reprint editions since the 1980s, and a little poking around on Amazon indicates that no one has bothered to put together an official Kindle edition yet, but the good news is that if you want to read a second-hand copy of this and see if it matches up with your vague memories from the 1970s, it won't cost you very much to satisfy your curiosity.

Amazon currently has used mass-market paperback copies available (mostly from other vendors) for as little as USD $1.99 plus shipping & handling, or USD $5.89 (and up) if you want the shipping & handling costs to be included in the basic price you pay. (Either way, there are likely to be additional sales taxes, but I don't know if yours would be the same as what shows up on my own screen when I look at the options, so I won't try to predict them for you. I also don't know if you currently reside in the USA -- if not, the shipping costs might go up, or you might want to order from a different version of Amazon, or some other book-selling website based in another part of the world, instead of using Amazon.com?)

  • Hi, thanks. This is an amazing post regarding my query and I'm beyond impressed by the level of detail you have prepared for me. Frustratingly, however, there's not too much that's familiar and so I don't think this is the title I'm looking for. However, it seems like it will be an interesting read and I may well seek a copy anyway. You never know, it may just turn out to be the one; although I don't think so. What it may do, upon reading is trigger other facts in my mind regarding the book I'm seeking. Apr 30, 2020 at 20:11
  • @GavinHorrocks I'm disappointed but not truly surprised, if you follow me. As I said, the basic premise has been used many times. Pstalemate was the first candidate that popped into my head. The second was The Mercy Men by Alan E. Nourse. (I'm not going to bother typing out a lengthy description of it as a separate answer.) The third has already been mentioned in another answer. As you suggest, perhaps you should keep trying to trigger more memories to fill in more details. (For instance, was there a romance brewing? Were bad guys hunting the telepaths? Did any telepaths die in a fight?
    – Lorendiac
    Apr 30, 2020 at 22:32
  • @GavinHorrocks Heck, it suddenly occurs to me that if you didn't seem certain the story you read was a "book" instead of a much shorter piece, I might have nominated one or another of the series of stories by Zenna Henderson which are about "The People." (Alien refugees who look human, and can crossbreed with humans, but have powerful psychic abilities. Some of them formed a happy community in the Southwestern USA, but others were scattered across the continent and their kids grew up very lonely and afraid of being spotted as freaks or witches.)
    – Lorendiac
    Apr 30, 2020 at 22:33
  • Hi Lorendiac, thanks for the further replies and suggestions. I had no idea that in the era that I'm looking, there were so many possibilities. Naively, I suppose, I hoped the vague recall I had and the vague facts I recall, would have had somebody pinpoint this somewhat easily. But, reality check, this has not transpired. Numerous suggestions from various contributors have suggested aliens, off world scenarios, etc; but I'm convinced the scene or environment was much more everyday (terrestrial, regular people etc). I cannot remember a romance and nobody died at the end. Thanks again. Gavin. May 1, 2020 at 12:34
  • P.S. I've ordered a used copy of Pstalemate. May 1, 2020 at 12:35

It could be very well be the Cat series with the eponymous character, a young psychic, as the main role.

This is from Joan D. Vinge, and the first title is Psion (1982): Cat, a street kid, is arrested and given a choice: he can submit to training to develop his latent psychic abilities, or he can be shipped offworld as an indentured laborer. Although he doesn't really believe he could be anything special, Cat chooses to take part in the training, and is swiftly drawn into a world of interplanetary intrigue.

I think this fits the

  • Young main protagonist

  • Discovering his talents

  • Reluctant to use them

Can you have a look?

EDIT: I re-read the question and the OP read the book ealry 70's, which does NOT fit with PSION. But still an interesting read.

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    Partial matches are still valid answers, as querents sometimes get details confused, plus it may help someone else in the future.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 28, 2020 at 12:08
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    Hi Martigan. Thanks for the comment/suggestion. However, I'm sure there was not off-plated sci-fi aspect to the story, and with it being published in about 1980, I think it's too late as well. Nonetheless, thanks for trying to help. Much appreciated. Apr 28, 2020 at 15:02

I was going to suggest Julian May's "The Saga of Pliocene Exile", it started in '81.

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    Can you provide any more details that suggests any similarities? Any quotes from the work which fit any points the OP made, or how they're similar?
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 29, 2020 at 6:58
  • Thanks for the suggestion, but having researched this title, the storyline does not match my recall of the book I read. Nonetheless, thanks for your idea. Apr 29, 2020 at 13:43
  • Hello and thanks. Unfortunately a 1981 publication can't be what I'm looking for a I read my book in the early 1970s. nonetheless, thanks for the suggestion. Apr 30, 2020 at 20:13

I think it is The Gift by Ursula K Le Guin.

It is the first book in the Annals of the Western Shore trilogy. The story is set in a fictional world, in a barren and poverty-stricken region called the Uplands, some of whose inhabitants have hereditary magical gifts. The story follows the narrator Orrec, son of the leader of the domain of Caspromant, whose hereditary gift is the ability to "unmake", and Gry, the daughter of a neighboring domain, who can communicate with animals. Orrec's gift manifests late, and seems uncontrollable, and so he is blindfolded.

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    Could you edit this to explain how it matches?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    May 3, 2020 at 16:39
  • It is the first book in the Annals of the Western Shore trilogy. The story is set in a fictional world, in a barren and poverty-stricken region called the Uplands, some of whose inhabitants have hereditary magical gifts. The story follows the narrator Orrec, son of the leader of the domain of Caspromant, whose hereditary gift is the ability to "unmake", and Gry, the daughter of a neighboring domain, who can communicate with animals. Orrec's gift manifests late, and seems uncontrollable, and so he is blindfolded.
    – user128220
    May 3, 2020 at 17:54
  • You should edit your post with this info.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    May 3, 2020 at 17:55
  • Thank you for the suggestion but the book I'm hoping to find is set in a much more commonplace environment. Much appreciated that you took the time to suggest/comment. Jun 13, 2020 at 21:31

This could also be a partial match to the Psi-power series by Randall Garrett and Laurence Janifer writing under the pseudonym "Mark Phillips".

In this series, an FBI agent Kenneth Malone investigates a series of events that are all related to "psi-powers", including teleportation, pre-cognition, telepathy etc. The series starts in "Brain Twister" with Malone being assigned to investigate a possible telepathic spy getting secrets out of a Nevada research facility to the favourite boogeyman of the USA: the Russians.

At one point in the second book "The Impossibles" a group of teenagers are performing crimes through teleportation into and out of cars and shops, however I don't recall them being reluctant to use the ability.

The series starts off with him being naive and very sceptical of these abilities, then working out that these are a possibility, and finally to him acquiring each of these abilities throughout the series and joining a consortium of other people with these abilities, who are using the powers to collapse the world order so as to prevent World-War III.

  • Thank you, the scene or setting doesn't seem familiar, but I shall research this nonetheless. Much appreciated. Jun 13, 2020 at 21:32

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