Book Review: The Nobody People by Bob Proehl

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Nobody People by Bob Proehl

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Series: Book 1

Publisher: Del Rey (September 3, 2019)

Length: 496 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

The Nobody People is one of those books with a great premise that maybe looks better on paper than in execution. It is also very ambitious, resulting in some difficulty engaging on my part, simply because a lot was happening and the at times the plot felt all over the place. The novel begins with an introduction to Avi Hirsch, whom I’d initially assumed to be our main protagonist. A former war correspondent, he is a journalist who has taken to doing more local jobs after losing his leg on his last assignment overseas. But due to his expertise on terrorism and explosives, Avi was asked to investigate disturbing reports of young man who was able to carry out a string a suicide bombing attacks at multiple locations without dying himself—and without, apparently, a bomb.

And so begins Avi’s first exposure to the group of super-powered individuals who call themselves “Resonants.” His investigation has drawn their attention, but there is also another reason why they decided to approach him, and that is because they have identified his young daughter Emmeline—whom Avi had always just assumed was especially precocious and gifted—as one of them. Their leader, a man named Bishop, has established a school which he would like Emmeline to attend, where she would be able to learn to use and control her powers.

Eventually though, with the occurrence of even more high-profile cases involving Resonants in the news, they are forced to reveal themselves, and as expected, the response is not exactly friendly.

First off, that author Bob Proehl was inspired by the X-Men is immediately obvious. In fact, if he hadn’t made so many deliberate references to comic books, I might even have called this book a blatant copy-cat rather than the homage it’s probably meant to be. He’s borrowed a lot of ideas from the X-Men universe, from little details like the Bishop Academy in New York to the overarching themes of marginalization and bigotry against the mutants—oops, my bad, I mean the Resonants. This in itself isn’t a negative, per se, since I love the X-Men and Proehl is by no means the first author to be influenced by the comic or use its tropes for himself. That said, I was a little taken aback by how bold some of these similarities were, and a little disappointed that this book wasn’t a tad more original. At times, the story even had a fanfic vibe to it that I found hard to shake.

But my main issue with The Nobody People, as I’ve alluded to already, is the fact that there is just SO. MUCH. GOING. ON. There is a lot of conflict, but not really a unifying thread to make everything feel cohesive. Like I said, I started the book thinking Avi was the main protagonist, and the first handful of pages made me think we were settling for a detective story. Of course, that belief was quickly dispelled as we were introduced to the Resonants, and ultimately, it was Fahima Deeb, a queer Muslim woman with an uncanny supernatural connection to mechanical objects who ended up taking over the reins. But throw in other POVs like Emmeline, Patrick, Carrie and many more others, over time it became increasingly more difficult to feel emotionally invested in each character equally. There were a lot of names to keep track of, and some inevitably fell through the cracks and felt undeveloped, uninteresting.

The story also dragged and rambled at times, coming across as more episodic like a TV series rather than having a distinct beginning, middle, and end (which, while we’re on the topic, was very abrupt and I can’t say I was a fan of the ending at all). To the book’s credit though, I have to say there were many highlights and memorable moments, plus plenty of intrigue. I just wished that all these ideas, themes, plot points, and character motives could have been better pieced together to form a smoother, more cogent and convincing narrative.

Overall, I would say The Nobody People is worth a read if you’re into superhero type fiction, keeping in mind it won’t be offering up anything too new or groundbreaking. The story also had the feel of an ensemble cast TV series with numerous mini-arcs complete with multiple climaxes (and anti-climaxes) which could be quite awkward and tiresome at times. However, the plot was not without its high points, and occasionally an action scene or a particular subplot would really shine through and grab my attention. The way the book ends makes me think this will be a series, one that I feel has some promise. Should a sequel be written, I may be open to continuing with the story.

19 Comments on “Book Review: The Nobody People by Bob Proehl”

  1. Ah, the dreaded “so much going on.” That seems to be a problem with many books I’ve read lately! Too bad, I have a copy of this. It may get squeezed out by other books though, now that I’ve read your review.


  2. Something about the ‘too much going on’ style plot seems to be going around at the moment. I has similar feelings for a recent book that just left me feeling confused more than anything all. I guess ‘less’ is sometimes ‘more’.
    Lynn 😀


  3. If this is the first book in a series, maybe it would have worked better if the author had chosen to pace both the events and their sequence. From your description it sounds not a little confusing… Still, it’s interesting . 🙂


  4. Definitely sounds heavily influenced by X-Men, wow. I think it might irk me too that there is so much going on, and if it doesn’t feel cohesive that’s not good. Glad it had a few moments though- the premise is interesting, which I assume is why the X-Men are such an influence on people haha! I do kinda like the idea of his daughter being powered and the conflict he would face deciding between investigating the Resonants and accepting their help in training his daughter. If he had remained the main character that is lol.


    • Yeah, there were many more examples, but I didn’t want to spoil any of the story :D. And true, the X-Men are so ingrained in our culture now, so it’s not surprising so many ideas were borrowed, but I had hoped for a little more originality.


  5. Oh, that doesn’t sound good. An over-reliance of something so established as X-Men without acknowledging that debt seems like something I’d be very much against, even if it has a vibe of fanfic it still makes money for itself. Plus, it sounds pretty chaotic. Thanks for the warning!


  6. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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