Proehl (A Hundred Thousand Worlds, 2016, etc.) returns with a literary science fiction novel.
Someone really needs to introduce Proehl to the concept of fan fiction, as all his books to date fall firmly into that realm. His first novel was RPF—real person fiction—about the two stars of TV’s The X-Files. Names and details were changed, but virtually any reader could see that the premise was “What if Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny got married and had a baby?” This second novel, is, well, an X-Men AU—or alternate universe fanfic—which asks: What if the X-Men was literary fiction? Names and details are altered again, but the story is one most readers will know—and one that Proehl must already know himself. Avi realizes his daughter, Emmeline, is more than just precocious—she has abilities beyond his understanding. She attracts the attention of other superpowered people, and soon she’s taken to a special school where she will learn to control what she can do. They call themselves Resonants, and eventually they reveal themselves to the world, but the public quickly fears and despises them for what they are. (There’s also one Resonant who uses his powers for evil and destruction, because of course there is.) The government soon turns against the Resonants, one particularly odious senator pushes to create a registry, and some Resonants are put into government camps. At nearly 500 pages in length, the story suffocates any action with burdensome, put-on prose, culminating in a not-very-satisfying climax and ending. Indeed, at times the entire book feels as if it’s been run through a writing residency algorithm: “He looks up at her, face cherubic with subcutaneous fat and an acceptance of oncoming death.” Or when Fahima, a queer Muslim woman who can effortlessly comprehend mechanical objects and even control them with her mind, can also sense the feelings of appliances: “The aging fridge understood that there was no rest coming for it and wanted only to die.” You and me both, fridge.
Readers should seek out less pretentious and more original X-Men fanfic online instead.