The Liminal People: Powerful first novel

The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-EverettThe Liminal People by Ayize Jama-EverettThe Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

If we could use our minds to make others see what we wanted them to see, rearrange people’s internal organs and dissolve their musculature, call animals to do our every bidding, or know others’ thoughts as intimately as our own, wouldn’t we rule the world? Or would we be so preoccupied with fighting with others like us that humans would be mere pawns, little worth toying with? Or, even worse, would we be so damaged by our powers that we would be dangerous to ourselves and others?

These are all questions posed by Ayize Jama-Everett’s short, powerful first novel, The Liminal People. Jama-Everett’s first person narrator, Taggert, introduces himself while in the midst of conducting a drug sale he is conducting on behalf of his mentor, Nordeen Maximus. Taggert is able to keep the transaction from going sour by putting his would-be assassins to sleep with a mental nudge, a skill he’s developed from his greater ability to manipulate his own and others’ bodies on a molecular level. The deal resolves in his favor, not surprisingly given his advantage, and he returns to his home near Al Hoceima in Morocco. There, he finds a recorded message from Yasmine Petalas, a woman from his past with her own mental ability – to manipulate fire – who broke his heart. She is calling to tell him she needs him, and he must come quickly.

Taggert obtains Nordeen’s permission to leave the country, doing his best to avoid Nordeen’s questions but compelled nonetheless to reveal that Yasmine is “like us”; Nordeen would know if he was lying, apparently as part of his own ability. Taggert makes his way to London, telling us his back story (including his history with Yasmine) as he travels. Once there, he finds that Yasmine is married to a diplomat. Yasmine charges him with finding her daughter, Tamara, who is gifted with telekinesis. No one knows whether Tamara has simply run away or has been kidnapped, and no one knows whether it has anything to do with her ability or merely her status as the daughter of a diplomat.

From that point forward, the book is in high gear for adventure, though Jama-Everett never loses sight of the philosophical and moral points, particularly with regard to the responsibilities inherent – or not – in having great power. When Taggart finds Tamara, he finds himself schooling her in the use of her power, both in a practical, how-to sense, and in a moral sense, trying to explain when it is proper to use her power and when it is not. It’s an odd lesson coming from a man who has often used his own power in order to run drugs and other contraband in and out of Africa, and Taggart finds himself examining his own life as well.

The Liminal People is an excellent first novel full of insightful characters – however gradually they may gain that insight – engaged in a battle that seems to have only just begun. I’m hoping that this novel is the first in a series, as Jama-Everett has built a world and peopled it with characters about which and whom I wish to know more.


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TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

View all posts by Terry Weyna

8 comments

  1. This sounds great! Terry, thanks for the review. (Sung to the tune of the Queen song): Da-da dum-dum-dum — Another one joins the list.

  2. And another one on! And another on! Another one joins the list!

  3. And thank you, Marion, because that’s a way better song than the earworm I had before reading your comment.

  4. Hey! I’m gonna read that, too, another one joins the list!

  5. We will, we will rock you!

  6. I think among all of us we managed one whole verse. We are the champions.

  7. We’ll keep on fighting to the end.

  8. Kinda sounds X-men-ish; but dirtier (in a good way).

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