By Dennis Eisenberg

"ELLA: A PSYCHIC THRILLER" By Uri Geller, London, Headline Feature. 340pp.

Whatever this book is, a thriller it is not. The unhappy heroine is a mistreated, abused, ill-educated 14-year-old year girl who lives in the British city of Bristol. Everyone treats her like a moron, even when she starts making a fortune for her parents and all her other hangers-on as a result of the most amazing and bizarre psychic abilities. She and her bullying father speak in what one can only describe as a travesty of ungrammatical local English argot. This is legitimate when an author wants to add local color to personality and character. But when it goes on page after page, it grates on the reader's nerves.

There are 340 pages about Ella, but until she vanishes into space after throwing herself off the peak of Mount Sinai, we know nothing about her innermost thoughts, dreams, fancies, ambitions -- and all the other qualities with which any novelist worthy of his or her salt colors the leading personality. It is even slyly suggested that she might have become an angel, or maybe was carried upward to heaven by God's messengers. In essence she is the ultimate, totally exploited, victim. There are no heroes or heroines in this book. Except for Ella, with her literally high flying antics, they are a miserable lot.

From the first to the last page all we know about Ella and what makes her tick, other than her psychic powers, is that she is growing thinner and thinner every day. Her hypocritical thug of a father, who professes to being a deeply religious man, regards her as 'dim witted.' He abuses her both physically and mentally.

When he accuses her -- falsely -- of the minor theft of a small model car, she insists: 'I ain't lying.' To which her dad replies: 'You mean you wishes you ain't,' before he lashes at the open palms of her hand with a thick black belt adorned with a holy silver buckle. Some friendly psychic power comes to Ella's rescue when the solid metal buckle of his belt disintegrates and disappears into thin air. Who or what is the psychic power which suddenly decides to protect her?

She can levitate and hover above her bed or chair for long periods. Angels with silver hair appear before her. Lights in her family's working-class home inexplicably switch on and off. She appears to be indirectly responsible when her mother's bottles of gin disintegrate into a thousand pieces in their secret hiding places all over the house. Zippers on bags either jam or open on their own. Mysterious booms explode around her family's ears. Windows suddenly shatter without reason when one gets the impression that she is trying to attract attention. She can vanish and appear in another room.

In her school, staffed by what appear to be sadistic morons, her desk hurtles across the classroom. It shakes itself free from her desperate grip and smashes itself against a wall. She is punished for her wickedness. The models of a nativity scene suddenly bursts into flame without anybody being near them. All the accusing fingers point at Ella -- who was nowhere near the scene -- as being the culprit.

Ella's uncle, a renowned exorcist, sets to work to free her from evil spirits. A sadist, if ever there was one, he is about to abuse her sexually as he leans over pretending to drive the devil from her soul. At the last moment her psychic spirit comes to her aid and directs her to raise her knees vigorously and let uncle have it with it full force in the precise area where the blow will cause the maximum pain. And just at that moment Ella is 'discovered' by a weird journalist in black leather.

She performs acts of levitation at will for photographers. As her fame spreads, she becomes an international celebrity appearing on CNN, BBC etc.

She is apparently never asked how or why she has been granted such psychic powers. All we know is that she is forever trying to hide from her bullying father.

She has a vast professional team 'managing' her, i.e. making a fortune out of her. Her dad buys himself a top of the range BMW. Billions of TV viewers around the globe are asked to pray with her at a well- publicized date and time. There are amazing results. Her young brother, who is going blind and is about to die of cancer of the brain, makes a miraculous recovery. Overnight the large cancerous growth vanishes. He can see again. He is totally cured. Thousands of similar cases are reported all over the world.

Ella is hailed as the second coming of Jesus, the Messiah, or a spirit who will bring peace to the world. She is flown to the Sinai desert, close to St Catherine's Monastery. Here, supposedly where Moses and the Israelites trod, she suddenly levitates - - permanently it seems. Her backers tie her with a rope to the ground, in case she vanishes into space like a gas-filled balloon. An ultimate stunt is planned by her mentor who is forever gazing into his crystal, which he claims is an incredible source of pure psychic power. He wants to demonstrate to the world that she can bring a corpse back to life. To prove it, he plans to die by drowning and then have Ella resuscitate him. The apparently still virgin Ella only agrees on condition that he marries her on her 16th birthday.

But at the last moment...well, I won't give away what appears to me to be a rather flat finale.

Now, we all know that prayer is powerful, that there are mystical forces in the world about which we know very little, and that the greatest journey, the greatest adventure yet to be played out, is to probe the secrets of our minds and the belief that there is a spiritual side allied to that wondrous, mystical fraction of a second when the sperm and the ovum spark the awesome creation of life.

But what is Uri Geller trying to palm off on us?

There is not a single redeeming feature in any one of the ugly, unpleasant, and indeed revolting characters in this book. Ella is nothing more than a cardboard figure, so remote that one has to stretch charity to its breaking point to feel sympathy or pity for her. The author simply does not give us the chance to get to know her.

Is the whole thing a hoax? Apparently not. For the author dedicates the book to 'sick children around the world -- may this story come true soon.' Well, OK. We all say amen to that. But will it not bring pain to those who really believe that the whole world can and will be persuaded to pray in unison for the ailing and dying children and that it will invariably bring success in its wake? We are given a hint of Uri Geller's true motive in writing this book. His name hits you every time you turn a page. The whole thing smacks of an ultimate ego trip.

True, Uri Geller possesses psychic talents, which he makes the most of in his capacity as a super showman. However, that crystal which Ella's chief manipulator carries, reminds us of a crystal which English newspapers reported that Geller held in his hands in a football stadium when he was trying to call on psychic forces to ensure that England would emerge victorious in its recent world championship match. The London Daily Mail reported that fork-bender Geller, said to be English manager Glenn Hoddle's confidant, had prepared a booklet containing positive stories and prayers for England's players to insert behind their shinpads when in action.

But Geller's magic was clearly a disaster. Psychic-laden shin pads let England down badly when their old enemy, Argentina, kicked them out of the contest.

And as a thriller writer, Geller is a flop.

To each his own, Mr. Geller. Stick to fork bending.


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