John Brunner is simply a genius. I have loved his books and find his ideas exciting. Even books that have been somewhat lapped by time like "Stand On Zanzibar," are incredibly readable today and still shine. "The Sheep Look Up," is still so painfully timely that really you just need to change the name of the wars we are in and who we owe money to and it still has punch today. "The Whole Man," isn't Brunner's top shelf, but it is the best book of his to be made into a film.
It's about telepaths. Well, it's about a lot more but it starts with telepaths. In the future we find telepaths, we train them, and we make them stronger. They don't make heads explode like in scanners, instead they are incredibly useful in medicine and communication. They help transform the world and make it a better more peaceful place. The trouble is, for all their powers telepaths are people as well.
Our story starts with a brief biography of our hero. He was born poor, and he was abused and neglected as a child. Worse, he was born deformed and was always the outsider. Is it any wonder one day he'd start to fantasize about something better? It is then that his telepathy kicks in, and boy howdy does it. Telepaths in outer space pick up on his transmission and there's an instant crisis. See, a telepath can turn inward creating his own fantasy world. Worse, he can drag others into his world both making it stronger and trapping normal people. Now the strongest telepath ever recorded is about to enter such a fugue.
The book cuts to years later. Our hero is now a very well respected man. He's not only the most powerful telepath on record, but he has made it his calling to do the dangerous job of freeing dysfunctional telepaths from their fugues. He not only risks his mental self in doing this, but since he often appears in these fugues as "whole" it causes him great distress. He is alone, and alienated almost literally by both his power and his body.
The book then has two tracks. One track the second most powerful telepathy creates a willing fugue with other willing partners. The dangers of entering this world are great as it is a careful creation not some trauma fantasy. When our hero enters the fugue he finds himself a great warrior in a fantasy world somewhat like ancient china. He has to find the real people among puppets in this world and find out how to break it up before it swallows him whole.
On the other track, he gets involved with some non telepaths. He's painfully shy, but they are good people and he gets drawn into their problems. Can he exist in the normal world? Can there be an accomodation reached?
This is a novel of great heart, soaring imagination and great images. Surely a good movie can be made of a person suddenly appearing into another world fighting dragons. It would be like "Sucker Punch" with a brain. I could see a younger Edward Norton for the main roll. Someone who can be vulnerable with a bite. It could even be made into a TV show. Just tell a TV executive that your idea is "Psychic House!"