How do you write a superman story? One tactic is to tell the story from the point of view of others _around_ the superman, as Norvell Page did in "But Without Horns" (_Unknown_,1940). Another tactic is to tell the story from the point of view of the superman in the form of a coming-of-age story, as A.E. van Vogt did in _Slan_ (1946). In _Jack of Eagles_ (as "Let the Finder Beware," _Thrilling Wonder Stories_, 1949; 1952), James Blish uses a third tactic: Tell the story from the point of view of an adult who does not yet know he is a superman.
Blish's hero, Danny Caiden, is an ordinary guy-- an amiable bachelor working as a third-string reporter for a trade-newspaper. He has one parlor trick. If a friend loses an object, he can tell instantly where it is. But now Danny begins to hear voices, and he has brief visions of the future. When Danny uses his emerging talents for his own benefit, he attracts the attention of a crime syndicate, the F.B.I.-- and a brotherhood of ESPers who decide that Danny is too much of a threat to their existence. In order to survive, Danny must increase his powers.
Part of the reason the novel succeeds is the character of Danny Caiden. In our cynical times, we have become so used to hard-boiled detectives, ruthless spies, and antiheroes of all stripes that we forget that there is still a place for heroes who are good guys. We identify with Danny because he is fundamentally a decent person. And Blish does not fall into the trap (as many other authors have done) of giving Danny a God-complex at the close of the novel.
Another reason for the novel's success is that it seriously attempts to provide a scientific rationale for extrasensory perception. Other writers might be content with using a label like "psionics" along with a bit of gobbledygook. Not Blish. He says in effect, "if ESP were operating on scientific principles, they would work like this." And he spells them out. For example, at one point, Danny uses the formula for magnetic moment to help him master the powers of telekinesis. Much later, when he is about to embark on a set of stairs that could lead him hopelessly off into another dimension, he uses Planck's constant as a mental guide. I know of few other authors who have taken the trouble to make ESP seem so _real_. Each time that I have read and reread this novel, I have felt that, yes, it really could happen this way.
Incidentally, the Fortean Society is briefly portrayed in the novel and is presented as a magnet for crackpots. A parapsychological laboratory modeled on that of J.B. Rhine at Duke University is presented much more sympathetically and provides Danny with some real assistance.