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I read a book in the late 80s about a man travelling from one dimension to another through portals that are "right around the corner". He ends up in a place where mind control is prevalent and people wear a number on their clothes based on their level of ability (like 1 through 10 or 12). He is woefully out of place and shielded by one of these people, but he is dominated by a child who gives him nightmares when his protector is asleep. This is all I can remember.

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  • You've put "right around the corner" into quotes. Is this a specific phrase that was used in the book? Were they referred to as 'portals'?
    – Valorum
    Feb 16 at 20:33
  • This reminds me of a short story by Larry Niven: "For a Foggy Night" but it couldn't be, based on the description of numbers and levels of ability. Feb 16 at 20:43
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    Possible dupe scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/129270/…
    – Danny Mc G
    Feb 16 at 20:47
  • 2
    Yeah, I think this is Mind Traders
    – Andrew
    Feb 16 at 21:59
  • The child given nightmares are a feature in Mind Traders, btw
    – Andrew
    Feb 17 at 2:18

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I'm going to enter an answer of The Mind Traders

I don't have a copy to hand so I can't verify the portal aspect, but it involves a human who is sent to a planet where everyone is a telepath, ranked by how many others they can dominate. His sponsor protects the human from an alien child who dominates him, so that fits. The review I linked to says:

Rigans can control people mentally. This is, of course, the main reason for suspecting that the Rigans are behind the disappearing humans. They’re mentally enslaving them, of course. What we learn throughout the book, though, is that such activity would be considered highly unethical—abhorrent even—to the Rigans, but not for the same reasons it is to humans.

Rigan society is rigidly structured based on mental power and the resultant ability to enslave people mentally. People are ranked based on how powerful they are, and that is represented by a number that represents the number of people they can Control (yes, with a capital C). Our protagonist, Jael, for instance, is a forty. He can Control forty people. It’s noted that all of the forty people he Controls are, in fact, thirties, which means that Jael has reached the limits of his power as a forty and is ready to take on the challenge to become a fifty.

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