This is a book I remember reading when I was a teen, so late 70's or early 80's.

Children and young adults are press-ganged (I remember it was involuntary, anyway) into an underground research facility where research into psi powers is going on. Eventually one of the research subjects becomes meta-powered and breaks out.

What stands out in my mind is the memory of a test. Imagine a bell jar, with a pedestal in it, with a ball standing on it. A powered individual is supposed to be able to knock the ball off the post, then put it back onto the post. There is a scene where some official-in-charge who isn't supposed to be powered actually accomplishes the test, levitating the gently glowing ball back onto its perch.

  • You could improve this question by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 20:03
  • It's quite tropey this. I can think of several books that broadly meet the spec; A Cage of Butterflies (Brian Caswell), Firestarter (Stephen King), Cries of the Children (Clare McNally)
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 20:07
  • This reminds me of "The Girl Who was Plugged In" by James Tiptree, Jr.
    – Spencer
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 2:09

1 Answer 1


The ball on the pedestal inside a bell jar is an exact description of a scene near the end of Pstalemate (Lester del Rey, 1971) in which the protagonist discovers telepathic powers in himself and takes massive doses of hallucinogens, trying to induce "bad trips" to harden himself against the otherwise inevitable madness that he sees via reading his own future mind.

  • I may be mixing them up, I read this a LONG time ago. But it's def not Firestarter. The second one sounds on, I remember the madness part now that you mentioned it. Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 20:54
  • Edited in the title/author/pub date once I recalled it. This was one of my favorite books a good while ago -- Lester del Rey had a real talent for writing entertaining SF.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 12:49
  • Yes, I think that's it. From one of the Amazon reviews: "His own parents had set up some kind of colony or commune of believers..." which fits what I was mis-remembering about some sort of facility. Ordered a copy. Thanks! Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 16:41
  • Glad I could remember it for you! I've got a lot of details from this one stored in my head, must have read it four or five times between about 1975 and 1985.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 16:55

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