Review: “The Nobody People,” Bob Proehl

Pros: Great look at the coming-out of people with “superpowers”
Cons: GAH! It ends in the middle of things!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Bob Proehl’s The Nobody People: A Novel introduces us to “Resonators,” people with special abilities. Some are psychics. Some can fly or shoot energy beams out of their eyes. Owen Curry, who is particularly dangerous, can create a null that negates matter, capable of destroying anything–and he’s been recruited by a mysterious bad guy who’s using him as a weapon. Reporter Avi Hirsch is recruited to help engineer the coming out of the Resonators, as guided by Kevin Bishop, a psychic who runs a school for 500 very special teens. Avi’s wife Kay, an immigration lawyer, is recruited to help with the inevitable legal cases. But really, Bishop’s after their seven-year-old daughter Emmeline, who mysteriously knows things before they happen. Bishop and his colleagues do everything they can to ease the Resonators’ coming out, but their opposition is also collecting super-powered allies–and the world isn’t ready for the Resonators.

This feels to me a little like what we might have seen if the TV show “Heroes” had taken place primarily after coming out to the world (plus some introspection). The different abilities and approaches to things feel a bit similar. The superheroes here don’t wear capes or funny costumes–they just do what they do. And since a lot of them are teens, they use their abilities for fun as much as for necessity.

Avi sees himself as the heroic protagonist championing the Resonators, but the truth is they neither want nor need that much of his help. The author very neatly avoids the “white savior” stereotype here, and I for one am thankful for it. The Resonators intend to save themselves, and there isn’t much Avi can do to help.

Fahima is my favorite character! She’s a foul-mouthed lesbian Muslim gadget-guru (her ability is being able to “see” how machines will come together), and she just has so much wonderful personality! That is not to say that the other characters suffer from comparison; there are quite a few fascinating people in here. She also comes up with some wonderful ideas that help to shape the future–sometimes for the better, sometimes not so much.

The parallels with current events are obvious. People kill Resonators out of fear and hatred. (“Bigotries travel in packs that way.”) They want to place them in internment camps. One man even shoots his own son when he thinks the boy might be a Resonator. Resonators are forced out of–and into–neighborhoods. They’re put on trial for things that aren’t always cut-and-dried. They’re assaulted and raped. It can get hard to read at times.

My only negative with this book is that it wasn’t obvious to me when I bought it that it was meant to be the first book in a series, and I hate finding out the hard way that a book ends in the middle of things!

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