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The Power Paperback – March 2, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Apart from the wonderful and almost purely science fiction The Dark Beyond the Stars, Frank M. Robinson's novels tend toward various subgenres of the thriller--such as techno (The Glass Inferno), espionage (Death of a Marionette), and anthropological (Waiting)--albeit with significant science fiction elements.

The Power is a science fiction thriller about a malevolent superhuman, a mutant masquerading as normal man. In this guise, the superman penetrates a secret committee convened to test the limits of human endurance--and therefore keeps tabs on the government's efforts to find those like him. One of the committee members begins to get an inkling that something isn't quite as it should be, setting off a paranoid and paranormal cat-and-mouse game with all the players wondering who to trust--for here, what you see is most definitely not what you get. Several innocents die, and the novel ends on a chilling note with a previously sympathetic character shedding his humanity with as little regret as a snake sheds its skin.

This was Robinson's first novel, written in his late twenties and first published in 1956, now updated and rereleased. If the reader can ignore the jarring inconsistencies which result from the superficial rewrite--characters calling each other Mac but having fought in the Gulf War, women acting like '50s molls but with birthdates in the '60s--then this is not a bad example of its kind. It is focused, fast-moving, and armed with just enough wish-fulfillment to please all those who dream of the day the world will recognize their obvious superiority. --Luc Duplessis


"I've always maintained that Frank M. Robinson's The Power was one of the best terror tales ever told. Waiting is even better, rich with character, suspense and constant surprise. This is one of the best chillers of the entire decade." --Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Updated edition (March 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312866542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312866549
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By hardly_b on March 18, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished rereading "The Power". Robinson apparently updated the text very slightly to set it in the 90's instead of the 50's. I haven't read the book in at least 25 years, so I can't recall all of the details, but it seems that he also cleaned up a couple of minor plot points. Overall the book is still quite good, but I think that he should have left it in the 50's, since that was its natural era.
The basic idea behind the plot is that a university gets a Navy contract to identify the factors that result in survival in battle (or other harsh conditions). They develop a questionaire, the people on the committee take it anonymously to "test the test", and one of the test scores is off the charts, but no one will admit to it. And then people start dying...
This is a very 50's idea at its core. This was the heyday of tests like the 16PF, which purported to be able to uncover people that were thieves (for instance). The idea was that you could write a test that included a lot of questions whose significance you barely understood yourself, give it to a big group of people that had a different "levels" of whatever trait you were looking for (measured independently -- that is, they survived desperate circumstances through something other than complete luck), and you'd apply statistical methods to construct the scoring formula that would be able to magically identify and quantify that trait. This is a great idea for use in a sci-fi thriller, so never mind that it didn't work very well. The only problem with pushing the book into the 90's is that this plot device needs some gee-whizzing to be contemporary, and that didn't change in the update. So my advice is to set it mentally in the 50's so that it's okay for the hero to travel by train, and ignore the references to the Vietnam and Gulf wars (which are glancing, at most).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Kenney on March 13, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
An unknown masterpiece of the abuse of mental power, by the first member of the race that will evolve from us. The ability to control others and force them to do what you want. Or, your identity disappearing; your bank account, no record; your credentials, retroactively falsified; your life, forever changed. Who has the Power?
It was Lord Acton who said "Power corrupts" and this book is a cynical verification of that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why are some people better at survival than others? The committee overseeing a Navy project researching that question discovers that one of its members possesses the qualities of the ultimate survivor -- never ill, never stressed, impossibly intelligent -- but they don't know which one it is and the gifted member refuses to identify himself. Soon one committee member dies and another nearly commits suicide, feeling compelled by an outside force to harm himself. As the body count mounts, Professor William Tanner's only hope of staying alive is to track down and kill the man who has the power to control minds.

The Power has the feel of a thriller with elements of a horror story rather than a science fiction novel. There isn't much science; no real attempt is made to explain the individual's extraordinary abilities. As a thriller, however, the novel succeeds. It has a fast-paced, action-filled plot that keeps the reader guessing. Even if the reader manages to deduce the killer's identity, the ending is completely unexpected.

My only quibbles are these: Tanner's schemes to solve the mystery seem a bit over-the-top. More importantly, at crucial moments the plot depends upon unlikely coincidences. I was willing to swallow my skepticism on both counts for the sake of plot advancement. The story is so fun that the flaws are easy to overlook. I recommend it to fans of thrillers, horror stories, and science fiction.

A final note: This 1956 novel was revised in 1999. It's not clear that the revision amounted to much more than changing the names of wars.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roy F. Plummer on February 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Oldie but Goodie. I tied to submit just the first three words, as they tell the whole story. Then I was told that 17 more words were required, so here goes - word 1 - word 2- word 3 - word 4 --- and so on. What an a-- h--- system.
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By Nick Howes on December 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jim Tanner heads up a panel of researchers into the nature of pain and is confronted by the fact that one of the panel-members is not human. Whoever it is, it's someone who skipped a couple evolutionary steps. He looks human, but his mind is in a whole other place. He can control thoughts and actions and memories, he can work a normal person like Howdy Doody.

The revelation spells death for the researcher who brought it up, and threatens everyone on the panel. Tanner finds himself being isolated, dismissed as an imposter when his work records disappear, friends have forgotten who he is, his bank doesn't have a record of his name ...he's being erased. And when done...he'll be done.

Frankl M. Robinson's own Twilight Zone take on paranoia came out in the 1950's and stands up well after he did a bit of editing ten years ago to substitute dated references with newer ones. It's a thought-provoking exploration of how a normal guy takes on a superhuman enemy out to get him, much less beat him.

I remain a big fan of the late 60's movie made from the book by George Pal, responsible for the classic War of the Worlds and When Worlds Collide. The Power starred George Hamilton, Suzanne Pleshette, Michael Rennie, Aldo Ray, Arthur O'Connel, Earl Holliman, and a stable of other reliables. I watch it every once in awhile.

Haven't read the book since I was a teen, but it's excellent.
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