This is a rich, florid, funny history, with undertones of human grief. Knight plays it very straight. His prose is measured and measured again. It’s as if Strunk and White took the manuscript on vacation and made buffing it a competition ... Knight does seem to have his tongue in his cheek at moments, but that tongue is buried so deeply it would require an oral surgeon to locate and extract it ... The good news is that Knight is shrewd and perceptive, and his book is as good as his article. The bad news is that his book is not a great deal better than his article. The short version was enough for me ... Knight’s portraits of Barker and Fairley are lively ... Knight’s book is crisp, almost clinically so. It’s on the passionless side. The crooked timber of humanity is cut into two-by-fours. Photographs are employed to profound, poetic effect.
A strange and gripping account of Barker’s adventures in precognition ... Blends history and popular science with biography ... Knight tells Barker’s story in lucid, no-nonsense prose, portraying him as compassionate and progressive, with a clear stubborn streak and a taste for the limelight ... The book’s underlying inquiry – can the human mind really see into the future? – is yet to be put to bed ... Nonetheless, the most hardened sceptic can’t fail to be electrified by the stories of ordinary citizens assuaged by visions of earthquakes, tornadoes, collapsing buildings and planes falling out of the sky, and the eminent physician in their thrall. The final chapter brings a doozy of a plot twist that stretches all rational responses to breaking point.
[Knight's] first book showcases the gifts that make him so endlessly readable. A richly researched feat of compression, it tells a tantalising tale of the unlikely interplay between the press, psychiatry and the paranormal in Britain during the late 1960s ... Knight’s account is soberly sympathetic and wholly serious, with any spookiness confined to the outsize black-and-white images dropped randomly into the text without captions; I swore I could hear Delia Derbyshire’s theremin when I turned a page to suddenly find Barker staring back at me from under devilish eyebrows. When it comes to the text itself, though, Knight mostly keeps out of the way, favouring out-and-out storytelling over talking-head commentary. His flair for synthesis and compression keeps the reader riveted, yet ultimately these strengths are also the source of faint niggles; the abrupt, rather too convenient ending supplied by Barker’s death from an aneurysm in 1968 makes it tricky to gauge the overall impact of a book that isn’t a biography, exactly, yet doesn’t propose any kind of thesis to stand it up as intellectual or social history ... You finish the book, perhaps aptly, with more questions than answers.