The Nobody People

By Bob Proehl

The Nobody People, a novel by Bob Proehl
Book details

Modern life has highlighted the plight of The Other. People are marginalised for all sorts of reasons and from what I can tell it is more noticeable than ever. If you are different but can blend in with everybody else, would you keep it a secret or not? The Nobody People are hidden from view for now but each possess one of a multitude of abilities from flight, super intelligence and many more. Should they remain in the shadows or step out?

There are people around us with special powers, but no one talks about it. There are a few murmurings on conspiracy websites and trash talk radio but on the whole these Nobody People remain hidden. This time is coming to an end as more special abilities are appearing, and they cannot remain hidden forever. How will these Nobody People reveal themselves and how will the general public react?

Nobody People by Bob Proehl feels very much a science fiction book of our time. This has always been a genre that reflects the real world and explores themes through the prism of fiction. The idea of super powers is pure fantasy but the book is not about this. The book is more about persecution and discrimination – a feeling that many people today can share. The fact that someone can float or talk to animals does not make them super in the eyes of many of the people in this book, but a danger and different.

The book’s initial structure centres on Avi Hirsch and his family. Avi is an investigative journalist and his wife a Civil Rights Lawyer. They are already the perfect vessel for the Nobody People to announce their presence. Avi specialises in giving a face to things people fear. What makes them even better is that their daughter Emmeline also has powers and just may be the strongest of them all.

Being at the forefront of a new age could have brought the Hirsch family together but instead it does the opposite. This happens early on in the book and from this point on the book grows darker. The fractures in the Hirsch family are paralleled in the wider society. Rather than embrace the new, the governments and people (especially America) react with fear. There is some validity to this as those with the powers are not always good. In fact, a new breed of super terrorist has arisen and this is not helping the cause.

As a reader you sense that the way that the world reacts in Nobody People is how our current world would should it happen to us. Both sides not really open to compromise and inevitably it drifts towards conflict. The essence of the book is dark, but the people involved give it life. The students and teachers of a school for the talented play a major role as do some of the disenfranchised. Although they all have abilities, there issues are very relatable. It is the relationships that give the book it core and personalises the big issues. Not everyone will make the end of the book intact and it really raise the tension.

Another element that works well is how Hirsch treats the abilities. They are varied, but just because you have differences from the norm does not make you all the same. Some of the powers are also borderline useless. Being the person with the power to smell like egg means you are discriminated against and don’t even have the powers to defend yourself.

Nobody People is a hard hitting science fiction novel that may be fantastical in places but is based very much in our own world. Neither side covers themselves in glory and in this way the book feels very real. There are no heroes, just people trying to survive. Although there is action, this is not a book that you can consider fun. It is more of a serious examination of discrimination and modern attitudes. It is a good read for a fan of super hero fiction who would like to delve deeper into some of the themes that sit under the genre.    

Written on 25th September 2020 by .

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