Review: The Liminal People

Posted: May 8, 2012 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Ayize Jamal-Everett, Urban Fantasy

Superheroes are extremely prevalent in pop-culture at the moment. It seems that half the books in my To-Read Pile feature some form of super human shenanigans. With all these options it takes a lot to rise above mediocrity and offer something truly gripping. Ayize Jama-Everett has written a book that does just that. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE (Amazon) is a supernatural crime thriller that reads like NBC’s failed television drama Heroes meets the hit action film Taken starring Liam Neeson.

I make the comparison because when I’m reading a review, comparisons often catch my interest and help me form a basis on which to start considering whether or not I should fork over the cash. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE undoubtedly reflects shades of Heroes and Taken, but in the end it eclipses both.

Taggert is a member of the razor-neck gang, hired muscle for a very dangerous and mysterious master. Taggert can exert his influence over his own body’s natural processes, as well as the bodies of other people. He is a healer, but the best healers are the ones who know how to hurt. Out of the blue, Taggert gets a call from his ex. In the flash of a synapse, Taggert is on his way to London to aid the only girl he ever loved in finding her missing daughter. As it turns out, the missing girl has supernatural abilities quite like his own, and there are some very powerful people who would like to use those powers for their own agenda.

Well that’s as good a set-up as I’ve ever read. Simple enough, familiar with a nice science fiction twist. The story is told from the first person perspective of Taggert who has got to be one of the best anti-heroes I have read about in ages. The whole anti-hero concept has worn pretty thin on me as of late. A lot of authors think they can just write a no-nonsense, wisecracking, hard fighting, womanizing, profanity spewing caricature and give the character the label of “rogue” and get away with it. No. Taggert is a rare specimen, a true anti-hero full of depth and complexity. Taggert is a killer. But he is not a killer by nature. He has gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd, he is the slave of a power-hungry enigma. He is more than human and undeniably human at the same time. Taggert’s history combined with his demeanor make him heart achingly sympathetic and blazing cool all at once. Authors take note: this is how you write an anti-hero.

THE LIMINAL PEOPLE is a noir juggernaut with startlingly genuine themes of salvation, emancipation, and family. Such good reading.

The other characters are just as well written, though not nearly as deep. Tamara, for example, is part teenage girl, part super-powered killing machine. If you think badly written anti-heroes irk me you should hear my opinion on badly written female protagonists. Tamara dodges that bullet, demonstrating the pluck and guts of a strong and intelligent young lady while remaining realistically vulnerable. She may be only fourteen years of age but underestimating Tamara could be the last mistake you ever make.

We’ve got great heroes and we have also got great villains. What divides THE LIMINAL PEOPLE from the rest of the super human fiction out there is the moral ambiguity. Taggert goes toe-to-toe with some pretty nasty specimens in his journey to find his ex’s daughter, but his own boss might be the most despicable villain of all. Even better than the sinister and illusive aura these baddies seem to just ooze is the fact that they are driven by some very real and human foibles. It’s this gray tone that permeates the novel that sustains the gritty, colorful atmosphere.

The heroes and villains alike dance the line between humans and gods. Dubbed “liminal people” later in the novel, Taggert and those like him often live as isolated outcasts on the very edge of society. These super humans avoid conflict whenever necessary because when disagreement devolves into fighting it often gets messy and attracts far too much attention. The powers displayed in the book are nothing new in concept but the way they are applied is extremely creative. I regularly find myself wondering what super power I would want were I to be granted any. Well I have my answer: Taggert’s ability to manipulate people’s bodies. After reading some of the things Taggert does (including an especially brutal interrogation) you might find yourself feeling the same way.

THE LIMINAL PEOPLE is an astounding first novel. Right now it has been published by a smaller agency called Small Beer Press but I see a big future for Ayize Jama-Everett. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE is a noir juggernaut with startlingly genuine themes of salvation, emancipation, and family. As of now, this book is my favorite of the year and I desperately hope that Jama-Everett chooses to pen a sequel.

  • Recommended Age: 17+
  • Language: Strong language throughout
  • Violence: Violence is a major aspect of the book, including one super awesome/sadistic interrogation scene
  • Sex: Yes, but not graphic or explicit in any way


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