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The Whole World Fades

The Mindwarpers

By Eric Frank Russell 

17 Mar, 2024

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


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Eric Frank Russell’s 1965 The Mindwarpers is a stand-alone science fiction thriller. The Mindwarpers previously appeared in 1964 as With a Strange Device.

In a world divided between allies of the United States of America and certain unnamed enemies, security is mission one. The research facility that employs master metallurgist Richard Bransome imposes the most stringent security measures possible. Yet the facility is helpless to prevent the loss of its top minds through an insidious process about which federal agents like Henderson can do nothing.

Why would America’s most talented men suddenly resign their positions to disappear into obscurity?

The top brass would love to arrest the absconding researchers, but they have no pretext for doing so. All they can do is document the steady pace of resignations.

Bransome gains sudden insight into the phenomenon when, while eating in a café, he overhears two truckers discussing a recently discovered corpse in small town Burleston. The name rings an ominous bell for Bransome. Burleston is the very town where he murdered Arline Lafarge. Perhaps the corpse is Arline’s!

Bransome is suddenly possessed by an overwhelming paranoia. Could the police have connected him with Arline’s murder? Are they about to arrest him? If so, even the most innocuous actions on other people’s part are alarming.

Curiosity overcomes prudence. Bransome’s time might be better invested in asking questions like why did he never think of the murder in the last twenty years?” Why could he not remember Arline’s name?” and Why is he so unclear about why he murdered Arline?”.Taking what he believes are ample steps to conceal his guilty skulking, Bransome sets out for Burleston to see if the dead woman is indeed Arline.

Bransome is unhappy to find himself dogged by Henderson. Nevertheless, he easily eludes the government agent… or so Bransome assures himself.

Revelations await in Burleston. Foremost among them, nobody in Burleston has even tried to discover who the dead woman is, let alone who murdered her. This is because there is no mystery corpse at all.

Did Bransome mishear the town’s name? Or is something altogether more ominous going on? And did the researcher really shake Henderson or is the far more experienced government agent much better at being a cat than Bransome is at being a mouse?


I originally set out to write a review of Russell’s Next of Kin AKA The Space Willies. To my annoyance, cursory online research made it clear that it was no coincidence that the copy of Next of Kin I own is from the 1980s1. Next of Kin was not published under that title in North America until the unabridged 1985 Del Rey edition. I cannot have read the book before 1985. It doesn’t qualify for my Tears project.

The Mindwarpers was right there on my bookshelf, next to Next of Kin, thus a sensible choice (given the intention to read a Russell book and also extreme sloth). I would have been better served to invest more effort in finding a replacement for Next of Kin.

This novel clocks in at only 158 pages. Russell does not have much room in which to construct his mystery. Also the extraordinarily unfortunate US title gives the game away before the book is even opened. Given the implausibility that Bransome would have committed murder at all, the holes in his memory of the murder, the odd foreign accent of the trucker, and that title, most readers will work out what’s up early in the novel.

As for plausibility: while Bransome’s efforts to avoid provoking suspicion while investigating the matter are hilariously inept — everyone who knows him knows something is up, as do some people who don’t know him — there is no reason that Bransome would be any good at that sort of thing. It would be surprising if he were. It is unfortunate that his actions are more comic than thrilling, but at least they are plausible.

One more positive thing I can say about this work: the John Berkey cover is eye-catching. In fact, the cover is likely why I bought this novel. Pity there’s nothing resembling a spaceship in the narrative itself… but at least there’s one on the cover2.

Characters? Cardboard. Prose? Meh. This novel is recommended only for Eric Frank Russell completists.

The Mindwarpers is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Kobo), and here (Words Worth Books). I could not find The Mindwarpers at Chapters-Indigo. 

1: Astonishingly, despite having been published by Lancer, my copy is still in one piece. How this one book could have escaped Lancer’s dire binding practices is unclear. I wonder if the whole print run was decently bound or if it was simply this copy that was atypically robust?

2: The Peter Elson cover for the Mandarin edition settled for a flying car, also not featured within the novel.