Ayize Jama-Everett, “The Liminal People” (2011) – I got turned on to Ayize Jama-Everett by an article about writing action-y novels. This, his first book and second that I’ve read, fits the bill. It’s a novel about super-people — you really can’t say superheroes, though I guess superheroes as a genre aren’t always especially heroic these days — using their powers on one another. If anyone saw the underrated action flick “Push,” it’s a bit like that. Answering the now-trite “what if superpowers but real” question, both “Push” and Jama-Everett reply “live on the margins, dodging bigger powers and doing crimes.”
The protagonist, Taggert, is someone who can manipulate bodies on the molecular level. This makes him a healer but also capable of devastating harm- think of someone who can manipulate your nerves, your histamines, your bodily acids, etc. After healing a streak through Africa (both Taggert and Jama-Everett are black, which makes this less cringey than if a white author/protagonist did it- sorry, I don’t make the cringe rules) he gets picked up by a powered crime boss in Morocco. Boss Nordeen’s powers are vague but include being able to tell when others are lying and probably some sort of emotional manipulation. Nordeen puts Taggert to work healing and harming, more of the latter.
Taggert gets called on by an ex-lover in London to help find her missing daughter. Lo and behold, both mother and daughter are powered, but the ex-lover chose to live in the mainstream, suppressing her powers (which entailed controlling fire- fewer obvious peacetime applications). The runaway daughter, Tamara, is a telepath/telekinetic combo who ran away from an illusionist and her posse who looked to manipulate her talents.
The plot isn’t exactly the thickest but it’s a fun read nevertheless. Taggert and Tamara go on a quest for revenge, Taggert looks to shield Tamara from his boss, there’s a training montage, some big confrontations between superpowered crooks. It’s good clean fun. ****’