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Ayize Jama-Everett
The Liminal People
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

Small Beer Press
US Trade Paperback Reprint Edition
ISBN 978-1-931-52033-1
Publication Date: 01-10-2011
224 Pages; $16
Date Reviewed: 12-14-2011
Index:  Science Fiction  Fantasy  Mystery  General Fiction  Horror

Secret worlds surround us. Clandestine orders of espionage, crime and even some religions are well known to exist, but most of us never experience the details. The nitty-gritty lives of those who live in those worlds are the stuff of exciting fiction and non-fiction. To make those worlds real to the reader, the details need to be right; we can't be overwhelmed, but our senses must be engaged.

In 'The Liminal People,' Ayize Jama-Everett creates a secret world of humans with psychic powers who live among us. He uses the gritty look and feel of mystery and espionage fiction to ground his fantasy. His integration of sensory immersion and hidden, borderline lives is so seamless and powerful that 'The Liminal People' doesn't seem particularly fantastic. It just feels real — and more exciting than life, or most fiction.

We meet Taggert, the protagonist, in the midst of a mission. He's the point man for a drug deal that might go very pear-shaped were it not for the fact that he can sense the hidden men in the landscape and put them to sleep with his mind. It's a superbly-written set-piece that immerses us in Everett's world in heartbeats that Taggert could hear — or stop. Taggert is a healer; but his power is not limited to mere healing. Put more precisely, Taggert can use his mind to manipulate the bodies of those around in any way he so desires; for good or ill.

Taggert is in the employ of Nordeen, a Morrocan who runs the Razor gang. It's not just about drugs, it's about power. Nordeen too, has powers and power, over Taggert, at least. But when Taggert gets a phone call to a dead-drop line, he's forced to face his past, his powers, and the powers that control him. It's a classic espionage plot ramped up into the realm of telekinesis and telepathy.

'The Liminal People' is compelling and engaging from the start. Everett's prose has just enough poetry and just enough propulsion whisk the real and the unreal together so that the reader accepts them as one. He knows how to reveal the world he has created, when to hold back and allow wonder, and when to give us the goods so that we understand the complicated relationships he is creating as a scaffold for the action that is to follow. The book grabs your attention and rewards it with a thoroughly detailed world.

The characters who inhabit this world are as detailed and realistic as the world itself. Everett is working in the tradition of mystery and espionage fiction where every character is broken and flawed. Taggert is the first-person narrator, who is pulled from his near-comfort zone by his past. Everett gives us old flames, children, and some very nasty humans, all of whom are enjoyable to read about. Even those who are outside of Taggert's secret world have the power of being memorable.

For all the grit, character and poetry on display here, Everett's own super power appears to be plotting and set-pieces. Readers will find a quick immersion in the opening scene, and then some secret world-building. Once the plot kicks in, readers had best be prepared to finish the book in one sitting, while experiencing better special effects than you will find in any movie. Indeed, Everett's prose is cinematic in the best sense; when he puts us in a scene of action, his descriptions take on a hyper-clarity that is better than telepathy. The plot arc is cunning and enjoyably surprising, and the revelations have the shock of the new but the old-school satisfaction of well-woven espionage plots. 'The Liminal People' is seriously well-written, but also seriously fun to read. It's a secret world that deserves the elegant exposition of this engaging novel — and a sequel, sooner rather than later.

Editor's Note: The first edition was a mass-market paperback self-published by the author. Copies may be available from the author's website.

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