SF & Fantasy

Peter F. Hamilton’s Greg Mandel and Real-Life Psychic Spies


Peter F. Hamilton’s Greg Mandel and Real-Life Psychic Spies

Although Peter F. Hamilton is well-known for his space opera, some of his earliest works concern the near-future adventures of psychic detective Greg Mandel. Mandel is somewhat of an oddity among paranormal detectives in that he didn’t acquire his skills from a supernatural source: he earned them as a member of secretive British Army brigade called “Mindstar.”

While Mandel himself is a work of fiction, military involvement in psychic research is not. During the late Cold War, the United States government instituted a number of projects investigating the use of clairvoyance (here called “remote viewing”) in detecting enemy military installations. The idea didn’t originate with the United States. In fact, the US was just hoping to keep up with the USSR. Rumors had surfaced that the Soviets were conducting psychic research of their own, and the Cold War being what it was, the Americans followed suit.

The research was conducted under the code name “Stargate.” While Army research into psychic powers initially seemed practical enough (presuming that one considers the possibility of remote viewing practical), expenses and a lack of consistent results doomed the project.

Most people first became aware of military research into the paranormal via Jon Ronson’s excellent book The Men Who Stare at Goats, a book that was eventually made into a movie of the same name. Ronson did a wonderful job in portraying the essential absurdity of the entire concept, and the eccentricities of some of its advocates. (Readers who want to go a little deeper can peruse declassified government files here.)

American defense research into psychic powers officially ended in the mid-nineties, but there are some who say it continues to this day. There’s no way to know that for sure, but for now, we’ve got Peter F. Hamilton’s Greg Mandel books to read


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