The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan


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Post March 12, 2005, 11:54:42 AM

The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

Al Rice rides again, this time taking on the evil Gorojinh in a mental duel to decide the fate of the world.<br><br>Al moved away from the bait shop… I always thought that was part of his tongue-in-cheek appeal, that the fate of the world depended on a guy who sold worms for a living.<br><br>I see you took the advice from last time and gave him a backlash effect when he used his powers. That helped make Al more vulnerable, more appealing, in the face of all this power he suddenly has. Also, I couldn’t help but notice more sensory input, especially when Al sees Sue. <br><br>I would have liked to see even more of that, throughout the rest of the story, and especially inside the dueling chamber. With everything taking place inside Al’s head, it was kind of difficult for me to picture it. For example, I couldn’t figure out how he did his telekinesis. Does he have to picture its weight, and imagine lifting it? Can he “see” the forces acting on it? Does he “push” on it just as hard with his mind as he would with his hands? <br><br>Psychic powers are hard things to describe, and you’ve not chosen an easy thing to write. Next time out, you might want to give a quick display of what Al can do and what he can’t, just so the reader has the right reference and vocabulary to interpret the events that follow. (Al in action as the story starts might make a good “hook”, too.)<br><br>I mention vocabulary because I was a little mixed up in the conversation between Al and Marl-Ki. Just talking telepathically wasn’t a mind meld? I ask because in the middle of their “conversation” Marl-Ki melds with him to check his powers, but I thought they were already melded. <br><br>This was a good plot idea, but I saw two flaws. First, I thought there was too much telling and not enough showing, I’m sorry to say. If you take the paragraph where Al is looking at Sue, the writing is excellent--up to the part where the sight & smell of her turns his knees to mush. After that, we are told “Al was sure that Sue liked him, but he was equally sure that she was uncomfortable around him because of his ability to read and control minds…” What a great opportunity that would have been to show that. As he’s looking at her all lustily, to have her smile fade, a worried look cross her face and then have her ask as she crosses her arms in front of her chest hesitantly, “Are you reading my mind right now?”<br><br>Right there, you’d show it. Her liking Al, and also her worry that he could learn her secrets. Plus, you build sympathy for Al, that his powers keep him separate from the world, apart from love.<br><br>Tension was my other bugaboo. We learn Al now possesses the ability to teleport, and scarcely a minute later, he’s in the chamber doing it, even though he’d never even tried it before. It was good that it bit back at him, draining him of energy, and that he needed to recharge. That made it seem more real. But imagine if we saw him trying it, practicing, and learning that it was very hard, and that he could only do it a little before he’d collapse from exhaustion. Then, after we know he can only barely do it, he still goes out and challenges the Gorojinh. Then, we’d really feel for him. We’d stomp and cheer as he put it all on the line for us. We’d hold our breath when the bad guy has him on the ropes, feeling the tension.<br><br>I’m sorry, I get all worked up when I critique. Basically, this was another good idea, Donald. There were things that I really liked: more sensory input and humanizing of the powers he possesses. I think if next time out you increase sympathy for Al early on to draw us to his character and do some more showing rather than telling, you’ll have a whale of a tale.<br><br>Nate
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Post March 12, 2005, 02:59:04 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

This was a good effort from Mr. Sullivan, staring our hero Al of the fantastic brain ;-). <br><br>The concept was fine and made for a sufficient plot for the story. It did seem a little hackneyed -- mysterious comas after UFOs appear -- but Sullivan pulled it off well enough to hold my interest.<br><br>Al is generally nice and well meaning. The reader does root for him. However, all that nice tends to make him unbelievable. If I could read minds, I would probably find it a real struggle not to off-handedly check what the people around me are thinking, especially in a poker game! <br><br>Here are my nitpicks:<br>First, much of the language seemed forced. From the start, I felt that the story was pushing me along like a bulldozer, rather than flowing naturally from one plotpoint to another. For instance, right at the beginning, it seemed VERY convenient that the boss of CAPS should be speaking about the comas to his team and then get a call telling him Roberto had fallen into such a coma. <br><br>Much of the language suffered the same forced feeling. Sue seemed to be the main catalyst for advancing the plot through dialogue. Unfortunately for Al's love interest, most of what she said sounded banal, existing only to manhandle the story into place.<br><br>This story also suffered from the old show vs. tell problems that plague most of us. The conversation between Al and Marl-Ki, which took place right in the middle, completely stopped the story for an info dump. I think it would have been more interesting if Al had investigated the UFO sightings and discovered this stuff for himself. <br><br>Don't get me wrong, I did not think this effort all bad. I enjoyed Sullivan's word choice and the good mix of vocabulary throughout. Also, I enjoyed watching Al win out. Though it did feel a little strange to see the Breaha show signs of compassion at the last moment, only to have his head bashed by Al. Foolish alien, you should never have taken pity on an innocent!<br><br>
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Post March 12, 2005, 09:12:36 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan



I’m sorry, I get all worked up when I critique. Basically, this was another good idea, Donald. There were things that I really liked: more sensory input and humanizing of the powers he possesses. I think if next time out you increase sympathy for Al early on to draw us to his character and do some more showing rather than telling, you’ll have a whale of a tale.

Nate
<br><br>Isn't getting worked up what critting is all about? I think your critting (and the critting of others) has helped me grow as a writer. I'm convinced that the critting on this board helps us all as writers (both in giving and recieving crits). I only wish that I were as good a critter as some others on this board.<br> <br> Of course, I don't agree with everything in the crits--but who does? I weed out and use the ones I consider helpful. <br><br>As you have seen, I have taken some of your advice to heart, and some is evident in The Mind Robbers. Glad you like the tale. And keep on crittin'!<br>
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Post March 12, 2005, 09:33:41 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

,This story also suffered from the old show vs. tell problems that plague most of us.  The conversation between Al and Marl-Ki, which took place right in the middle, completely stopped the story for an info dump.  I think it would have been more interesting if Al had investigated the UFO sightings and discovered this stuff for himself.  

Don't get me wrong, I did not think this effort all bad.  I enjoyed Sullivan's word choice and the good mix of vocabulary throughout.  Also, I enjoyed watching Al win out.  Though it did feel a little strange to see the Breaha show signs of compassion at the last moment, only to have his head bashed by Al.  Foolish alien, you should never have taken pity on an innocent!

 
<br><br>Thanks, Mr. Jones. You,ve made some good points in your comments, especially in the show vs tell thing. This is something that gives me fits, and I can never seem to get it right. Have to keep plugging away.<br><br>As to Breha's compassion, maybe I should have made it clearer that the alien's pity was brought about by Al's telehypnosis. Al simply used what compassion was already in the Gorojinhs mind to his advantage. <br><br>Thanks again,<br>Donald<br>
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Post March 12, 2005, 10:32:05 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

I like the mental chess match set up in this story. I thought the end was pulled off very well. The plot was very intricate and obviously took a lot of thought. Early on, I think a little more showing would have moved it along better. For instance, talk a little about the female characters body language, or have a little dialog between she and Al instead of just saying how she probaly felt and why she felt that way. The discussion between Al and Marl-ki was definately one of the strong points for me. It set the battle up well and helped the pace of the story. <br><br>Overall, I enjoyed this story. Joshua Scribner

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Post March 14, 2005, 01:26:46 AM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

Thanks, Joshua, for the kind comments. Glad you enjoyed the story. Yes, I gotta work on showing more and telling less. I agree that body language is an excellent way of showing (She held her chin up and crossed her arms...She threw her shoulders back, hands on hips...) <br><br>Alas, I don't think of these things when I'm writing. But that's the value of the comments we get; it sets us to thinking. <br><br>Thanks again for the encouraging comments.<br><br>Donald<br><br>
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Post March 14, 2005, 01:38:35 AM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

... This story also suffered from the old show vs. tell problems that plague most of us. The conversation between Al and Marl-Ki, which took place right in the middle, completely stopped the story for an info dump. I think it would have been more interesting if Al had investigated the UFO sightings and discovered this stuff for himself...

<br>The infodump was partly my fault -- I felt that the evolution and expansion of Al's powers needed some justification. Hence Donald added the long paragraph where Marl-ki relates telepathy (transmitting/receiving information through a different 'dimension') to telekinesis (manipulating and drawing on energy from that dimension) to teleportation (moving oneself through that dimension) ... Before my meddling, the infodump was a couple of hundred (?) words shorter!<br><br>Robert M.
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Post March 14, 2005, 11:47:57 AM

The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

<br>this was definitely the fastest paced of the CAPS/Rice tales, and made for a good read. <br>although i agree with others that the discussion between Al and Marl Ki included too much science and should have been more sublime, it wasn't too big of a deal.<br>as always Don's writing was tight and entertaining. especially good were the twin elements of Sue as a hottie and the Southwestern flavor, both really helpful in fleshing out the series' feel.<br>the battle sequence was also excellently handled: smooth, consistence and believable. only problem was, Don mentioned names too often, but i know of few tricks to avert that.<br><br>in short, let's hear it for what's becoming a bonafide franchise. want to see what happens next.<br><br>by the way, Don, how do you come up with names for all these civilizations?<br><br>Lee
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Post March 14, 2005, 12:20:00 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

Lee, there's these little sub-atomic particles sleeting throught the universe. When one of these particles intersects a neuron in your brain, you wind up getting an idea- seemingly out of nowhere. These particles are called Inspirat-ions.<br>Dan<br>:D<br>
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Post March 14, 2005, 01:56:43 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

this was definitely the fastest paced of the CAPS/Rice tales, and made for a good read.
although i agree with others that the discussion between Al and Marl Ki included too much science and should have been more sublime, it wasn't too big of a deal.
as always Don's writing was tight and entertaining. especially good were the twin elements of Sue as a hottie and the Southwestern flavor, both really helpful in fleshing out the series' feel.
the battle sequence was also excellently handled: smooth, consistence and believable. only problem was, Don mentioned names too often, but i know of few tricks to avert that.

in short, let's hear it for what's becoming a bonafide franchise. want to see what happens next.

by the way, Don, how do you come up with names for all these civilizations?

Lee
<br><br>Many thanks for the head-swelling comments, Lee! I just wish you were editor of Asimov’s or F&SF!! :-)<br><br>Using names too often is another bad habit that I’ll have to break. People in real life don’t keep repeating the name of the person they’re talking to, with the exception of a few individuals who do that (my dad, for one, had that habit).<br><br>Names for civilizations? That can be tough, just as choosing names for the characters in your story. For names of aliens and alien civilizations, I just keep writing down syllables that come to my head (maybe from little subatomic particles flying around), keep putting the syllables together at random until I get something that sounds right to me.<br><br><br>
... Before my meddling, the infodump was a couple of hundred (?) words shorter!

Robert M.
<br><br>Robert made a couple of other suggestions that were great, and enhanced the story. <br><br>Donald<br><br><br><br><br><br>
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Post March 17, 2005, 01:36:46 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

OOhh....liked this one too! The final battle tween Al and the alien was great! Only thing I might have liked to see changed, was the manner of death. Does he really HAVE to kill the alien with that spiked ball? Couldn't he have just INSERTED the thougth that the death happened in that manner to one and all....and still walked away the Champion?<br><br>Probably not, but I was a bit saddened that he had to 'stoop' to killing to win the battle....<br><br>Jim
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Post March 17, 2005, 03:17:17 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

For some reason, I didn't like this one as much as The Psychic Warrior. For me, this one was a bit too brief. That's probably a frustrating criticism, since last time I said you needed to condense your story, but there's a balance and I don't believe you quite reached it yet. I think a smidgen more detail and word variance would have spiced it up.<br><br>I also had issues with the plot. It seemed a tad formulaic. Why do bad aliens always appears stunningly beautiful or grotesquely ugly? Our champion vs your champion for the destiny of the world? The nearly omnipotent race that can't really help out but can give some damn good guidance? I'm not saying that everything needs to go against the curve, but inserting a twist does wonders. It forces the reader to pay attention, among other things.<br><br>One last point. Please don't break up dialogue into separate paragraphs. That's really distracting. You should only do it if it becomes overly long. Even then, I would add something like: "And another thing," continued Bob. Using separate paragraphs is fairly standard as identifiers nowadays; we are conditioned to thinking that another paragraph with dialogue is actually another speaker.<br>
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Post March 17, 2005, 03:21:08 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

OOhh....liked this one too! The final battle tween Al and the alien was great! Only thing I might have liked to see changed, was the manner of death. Does he really HAVE to kill the alien with that spiked ball? Couldn't he have just INSERTED the thougth that the death happened in that manner to one and all....and still walked away the Champion?

Probably not, but I was a bit saddened that he had to 'stoop' to killing to win the battle....

Jim
<br><br>Clearly, this type of duel (no 'holds' barred, combining physical and psychic/psychological attacks) was a long-standing Gorojinh tradition. And even assuming that Al's telepathic hypnosis was powerful enough to convince all the Gorojinh present that Al had killed his opponent, eventually they would have noticed -- 'Hey, there's old Arglebargle. Wait a minute -- didn't he get his brains pureed by that Earth guy?'.<br><br>Besides, Al may have had wanted a little revenge for the inevitable death of his friend and the other brain-drained victims ...<br><br>Robert M.
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Post March 17, 2005, 03:53:57 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

<grin> I understand.....but for me? I woulda spent a month trying to find a way for him to do just that....<br><br>:-)<br><br>Jim
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Post March 17, 2005, 04:01:27 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

This one maintained the nostalgic feel that ran through the last Al Rice story I read. Is Don shooting for this or is it natural to his writing style? <br><br>Anyway, I have a thing or two to say about the show vs tell issue. I concur that SvT is the bane of this story. Once Don gets a handle on that I suspect we'll see an interesting evolution in his storytelling. I wonder too how that might impact the nostalgic feel of his writing.<br><br>So I'm pondering SvT in relation to this story and it occurs to me that there may be something underlying it. Now, this is totally subjective and may be utterly off base, but I get a sense that Don is trying very hard to control his story and make sure he's communicating his intention and pushing the plot along in an appropriate manner. That's how this story reads. It's as if Don needs to have more confidence in his storytelling ability as well as in his readers. Having said that, my humble suggestion is for Don to cut loose with his next story, just go for it and see what happens. Tell your story and don't worry so much about making sure you've communicated absolutely what it is you want to say. I don't know, as a writing experiment (as vague as the instructions are), it would be interesting to see what happens. Particularly to Don's characters. Don's developing this great 50s-style sci fi series, he should let it breathe some, let it groove.<br><br>I have one very tiny quibble--who the hell wears buckskin suits?<br><br>Also, I was troubled by Al's brutal killing of the alien. I understand his motivation, but thus far Al has seemed to have a strong sense of morality that would preclude him taking this most serious step. Was this an attempt to add depth or complexity to his character? I'm all for meting out justice, but I don't know, given the tenor of Don's stories, this finish seemed jarringly dissonant rather than a sort of acceptable extension of Al's character. <br><br>I don't know, letting the Gorojinh live is a fairly typical kind of goody-two-shoes ending that might've fallen flat. So I'm not sure I'm offering anything useful in way of critique without an alternative to Al's actions. I suppose a lot depends on how he's processed his behavior the next time we see him.<br><br>Dan E.
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Post March 17, 2005, 08:37:52 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

I didn't mind that the bad guy bought it, but I was a little disappointed that Al did him in. (I didn't bring it up because I thought I had already picked on Donald enough.)<br><br>Perhaps a better resolution would have been if Al tricked the bad guy into braining himself with the ball. If Al tricked him into thinking that Al was really where the Gorojinh was, or if he got him to lose track of where Al was going, then all Al would have had to do is duck or something, and the Gorojinh gets it. This was a contest of minds, after all. Then Al doesn't wind up with blood on his hands, and someone paid for the crimes against those who had their minds wiped.<br><br>Nate
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Post March 17, 2005, 09:00:55 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

I didn't mind that the bad guy bought it, but I was a little disappointed that Al did him in. (I didn't bring it up because I thought I had already picked on Donald enough.)

Perhaps a better resolution would have been if Al tricked the bad guy into braining himself with the ball. If Al tricked him into thinking that Al was really where the Gorojinh was, or if he got him to lose track of where Al was going, then all Al would have had to do is duck or something, and the Gorojinh gets it. This was a contest of minds, after all. Then Al doesn't wind up with blood on his hands, and someone paid for the crimes against those who had their minds wiped.

Nate
<br><br>That's kind of a weaselly approach. Sort of like sending 'enemy combatants' (a lovely term, coined to allow violation of the Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of prisoners of war) to countries known to use torture, like a certain administration I won't name, and then denying any responsibility for the results. (And that's after quibbling over the definition of torture.)<br><br>Al would still be responsible for the death, as much as a bomber pilot is responsible for the destruction and death caused by his weapons, even if he got the Gorojinh champion to accidentally electrocute himself.<br><br>Robert M.
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Post March 17, 2005, 09:28:20 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

That's kind of a weaselly approach. [snip]
Al would still be responsible for the death, as much as a bomber pilot is responsible for the destruction and death caused by his weapons, even if he got the Gorojinh champion to accidentally electrocute himself.
<br>It may be true he is responsible, but in a story or movie if the hero tricks the bad guys into shooting at each other and killing each other off, we as a society reward the smart character for his clever thinking. That his actions killed them off is just not something that we worry about. I believe the feeling is that if they were dumb enough to shoot each other, they deserved it.<br><br>I don't see how it would be different for Al to do that. As far as the general morality of the audience is considered, good triumphs and evil is punished (and that, as Oscar Wilde would say, is what makes it fiction :)).<br><br>Nate
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Post March 18, 2005, 02:29:53 AM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

I was a little surprised at the controversy about  Al’s killing of the Gorojinh.  True, up to that point, Al had never shown himself to have a killer instinct.  He caused  the crew of a Ryll ship to self-destruct, but he did it from afar, as a pilot destroys enemy targets when he drops his bombs.  <br><br>It should be taken into account, though, that Al had never encountered an enemy like the Gorojinh.  The Rylls and Dorions were no match for Al, and he used his superior psychic powers to trick them while barely working up a sweat.<br><br>But the Gorojinh, as Marl Ki  pointed out, were about equal to Al in psychic power.  Note that Al never once resorted to trickery in dealing with them.  Because the Gorojinh were as powerful as Al, there;s no way he could’ve spared Breaha and then tricked the Gorojinh into believing he’d killed his opponent.<br><br>Again, with the stakes as high as they were, Al didn’t want to take any chances on using trickery--and he probably didn’t think of morals; he wanted to make damn sure that he won.  <br><br>And last but not least, Al was on the ropes, barely hanging on when he finally found a weakness he could exploit.  If he hadn’t summoned up his remaining strength and finished the job, Breaha might well have recovered and bashed Al’s head in.<br><br><br>
This one maintained the nostalgic feel that ran through the last Al Rice story I read. Is Don shooting for this or is it natural to his writing style?
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Post March 19, 2005, 08:35:57 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

Donald,<br>Another excelent entry in your Al Rice tales. The character has definetly grown as the stories progressed. I wasn't bothered too much by anyone else's quibbles until I got to the final part of the duel. I think you should have made those two paragraphs into several more, showing Al hating to use a positive, gentle emotion in order to lure his opponent into a position wherein he can be more easily dispatched. From what I've read of Al before, he wouldn't like what he did much, except for the saving Earth part.<br>I think your going to have to wind up writing a collection of these Al Rice stories, with an over-arching story arc. I'd be damn proud to have one on my shelves. And Al is a really interesting character, whose adventures are fun to read.<br>Dan<br>
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Post March 20, 2005, 09:02:23 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

Your kind words are much appreciated, Dan.  Many thanks .  If I do end up putting all of Al's adventures into a collection--perhaps into a novel--I'll no doubt do a revision here and there (for one thing, a novel would require a lot more description).  Yes, I think you have a good idea about having Al antagonize for a paragraph or two over his decision  to kill the helpless Gorojinh.  I'll probably work that in as one of my changes.<br><br>In another story I wrote, one of the nonhuman characters induces self-loathing and an irresistible desire to commit suicide into the mind of his opponent.  That tack may have worked for Al, too.<br><br>Hope your flu is getting better.  No, wait.  Hope you're getting better--not your flu!  :-)<br><br>Donald<br><br>
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Post March 24, 2005, 10:46:50 AM

The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

these alleged interstellar particles never seem to collide with yours truly, as inspiration lately has been rarer than visits to Aphelion, and those too have gotten far between.<br>as for helming Asimov's, well, maybe in a parallel universe where i can actually feel confident about spelling parallel (?).<br>anyway, the finale presented no problem for me, the ET champion was a bit too arrogant for his own good.<br>and how does Robert always manage to tie everything with GW?<br><br>Lee<br>
Last edited by neoadorable on March 24, 2005, 10:47:58 AM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post March 24, 2005, 12:24:59 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

...anyway, the finale presented no problem for me, the ET champion was a bit too arrogant for his own good.
and how does Robert always manage to tie everything with GW?

Lee
<br>Actually, it's pretty easy. For example, take the phrase 'too arrogant for his own good'. Does that bring anybody to mind? (Okay, Donald Trump. But Dubya too.)<br><br>Robert M.
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Post March 25, 2005, 12:07:30 PM

The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

<br>Hope "Dubya" 's aware of this much needed affection. Don't think he's arrogant, though, that sentiment requires considerable sophistication.<br>also, Don, agree with your comments about the book market being more or less dead these days. it's true that used bookshops offer tons more enticement than borders or B & N with their catalogs of halcyon titles we've almost lost to the corridors of time. if it wasn't for Myopic Books here in Chicago i'd be a goner.<br><br>Lee

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Post March 25, 2005, 12:32:52 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

Sophistication or sophistry?<br><br>Sorry, couldn't resist...

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Post March 25, 2005, 12:43:03 PM

The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

<br>some vocabulary you got there! Gotta look that one up.<br><br>Lee

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Post March 25, 2005, 01:17:41 PM

Re: The Mind Robbers by Donald Sullivan

Don't need to look it up. <br><br>But I must apologize for my interjection. This is not a forum for trading political barbs...

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