The Liminal War: A Novel by Ayize Jama-Everett drops this week. In preparation for this much awaited sequel, I urge all of you to read the book that started it all, The Liminal People: A Novel. You will not be disappointed. I will post a Liminal War review in within the next week, or two.
First off, The Liminal People isn’t the X-Men and [insert some other superhero franchise]. Whenever there are characters with extra-normal abilities, someone always wants to toss the X-franchise about. If you wanted to make a more accurate comparison, you would have to compare The Liminal People to the old ’60s British television program, The Champions (Google if you don’t know) — albeit the book is a lot more diverse. In a Spec/Fic publishing world that loves little white vampires and werewolves, or little white magic users, or little white vampire hunters, or little white companions on a quest to fight the big black enemy, Liminal is a refreshing burst of the real world. It is the first truly global Spec/Fic book of the 21st century.
I’ve been to some of the places Jama-Everett writes about, and he presents these places with the skills of both an anthropologist and a cartographer — he has an almost psycho-geographical insight into the unique personalities of the cities and towns he leads us through. Jama-Everett creates a world — granted, its steaming and festering underbelly — that is familiar; a slightly off-kilter version of our own. And in this world are a host of dangerous, and fascinating characters.
The primary character, Taggert (who’s special talent is depicted in such a way that from now on you will look at every talented healer with a side-eye) is someone you knew in college, but dropped out for reasons unknown. You hear whispers about his doing things that are either too grand or too amoral to be believed, yet you know that damn near every borderline supernatural rumor is true. He isn’t a true blue hero, but a person with a gift, with the talent and desire to use it for himself. It was exhilarating to read a “hero” who was not totally selfless.
Liminal should have the creators of Heroes: Reborn crapping themselves if anyone decides to turn this into a television series.
What truly sets Liminal apart from comparable books is a line said by Nordeen, Taggert’s boss, benefactor, and master: “That thing that is inside you.” Instead of being born with abilities, or developing them as a byproduct of exposure to [insert what would kill you in real life], Taggert’s and the other liminal people’s powers manifest through an intentionally vague biological process. Thinking of a person separate from their abilities, a host for them, makes for a read with a lot more at stake than saving the day — this is exemplified by the gut-wrenching ending of this too short novel.
The Liminal People is ripe for a sequel. [Update: It is dropping this week.] In fact, the groundwork that Ayize Jama-Everett has laid has the potential to entertain us for a very long time. While I do have my quibbles with the book, they are not worth mentioning as the sheer force of this book blows away my petty criticisms. And, yes, I have kept this review intentionally vague, as I do not want to ruin one paragraph of enjoyment for the reader. All I can say is this: Dude better keep allowing us to explore this word. He better use that thing that is inside of him to invite us back, time and again.
Note: This book is not for people who cannot handle coarse language, people of color in spec/fic, graphic violence, and one of the best ways to communicate over vast distances that I have ever read. Buy the book. Now.