The Nobody People: Interesting concept, but not a page-turner

The Nobody People by Bob ProehlThe Nobody People by Bob Proehl

The Nobody People by Bob ProehlAvi Hirsch is an investigative journalist whose specialty is reporting on bombings. He’s obsessed with bombs and the people who make them. This preoccupation has led to the loss of a leg, but that doesn’t slow Avi down too much.

Avi’s latest obsession is with a video recording of a church bomber. There’s a couple of things that seem strange about it. One is that Avi has seen this same guy on two videotaped bombings and he should have died in each. The other weird thing is that matter seems to act strangely when this bomber is present. It’s almost as if the guy can nullify matter.

As Avi is on the bomber’s trail, some people come to visit him and tell him they’ve caught the bomber. These odd folks are faculty members at a school for kids with supernatural abilities. They call themselves Resonants and they want Avi to visit the school and write a news article about it so that they can gently alert the world of their presence (which has so far been hidden). They also inform Avi that his own daughter Emmeline, who always seems to know about things before they happen, is a Resonant.

Bob Proehl

Bob Proehl

When Avi reports about the school and enrolls Emmeline there, it causes major stress on his professional and personal life, including his marriage. Some of the public reaction is quite negative, and Avi’s wife doesn’t appreciate that he took Emmeline there without discussing it with her first.

A large portion of the novel deals with the fallout of Avi’s decisions. We also get a good look at Owen, the bomber, and the events and personal interactions that led to his destructive behavior. Several other characters’ motivations, histories, and behaviors are also extensively detailed.

Bob Proehl seems more interested in exploring these characters than in providing us with a thrilling plot about people with supernatural abilities. I liked some of his characters well enough, but didn’t love any of them. Despite hearing so much about them, I didn’t feel that I really knew or cared for them. I think there were just too many of them. This, and the lack of a cohesive and compelling plot, made it easy to keep putting The Nobody People down — it’s not a page-turner.

Proehl uses his story to expose our tendency to fear and even hate those who are different from us. After the Resonants are outed by Avi, some fearful citizens begin to demand that they be dealt with, making suggestions that we’ve unfortunately seen in our own history of interacting with foreigners, immigrants, and people who are just different. (However, I don’t think that Proehl’s Resonants, many of whom have dangerous inhuman powers, can be thought of as analogous to immigrants and foreigners.)

The ending of The Nobody People was not satisfying. There’s a sequel, The Somebody People, expected in 2020. I’m not sure if I’ll read it. While I’d like to know where Proehl is going with this story, I have to admit that I didn’t really enjoy my time with The Nobody People.

Thérèse Plummer performs Random House Audio’s edition of The Nobody People. I’ve mentioned how amazing she is before and she’s just as awesome here. I have one complaint, though: There are several uncultured, bigoted, and/or hateful characters in this story and I didn’t appreciate that Plummer gave most (maybe all) of them Southern accents. That’s not cool.

Published in September 2019. When a group of outcasts with extraordinary abilities comes out of hiding, their clash with a violent society will spark a revolution—or an apocalypse. Avi Hirsch has always known his daughter was different. But when others with incredible, otherworldly gifts reveal themselves to the world, Avi realizes that her oddness is something more—that she is something more. With this, he has a terrifying revelation: Emmeline is now entering a society where her unique abilities unfairly mark her as a potential threat. And even though he is her father, Avi cannot keep her safe forever. Emmeline soon meets others just like her: Carrie Norris, a teenage girl who can turn invisible . . . but just wants to be seen. Fahima Deeb, a woman with an uncanny knack for machinery . . . but it’s her Muslim faith that makes the U.S. government suspicious of her. They are the nobody people—ordinary individuals with extraordinary gifts who want one only thing: to live as equals in an America that is gripped by fear and hatred. But the government is passing discriminatory laws. Violent mobs are taking to the streets. And one of their own—an angry young man seething with self-loathing—has used his power in an act of mass violence that has put a new target on the community. The nobody people must now stand together and fight for their future, or risk falling apart. The first book of a timely two-part series, The Nobody People is a powerful novel of love and hope in the face of bigotry that uses a world touched by the fantastic to explore our current reality. It is a story of family and community. It is a story of continuing to fight for one another, no matter the odds. It is the story of us.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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2 comments

  1. The ideas behind this sound interesting, but it’s a lot of good speculative material to put in service to a character study. Somewhat to my surprise, it’s not his first novel, and A Hundred Thousand Worlds was quite well reviewed.

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