Kieran Quinn, a not-so-mild-mannered massage therapist, has some unusual skills: he is both telekinetic (he can mentally lift up to thirty pounds, or keep up to seven small objects aloft simultaneously), and telepathic (he can receive and send thoughts from other people or animals). When he uses these abilities, they refract the light around him into spectacular rainbows, which he can use to hide behind, or dazzle foes and friends alike. However, Quinn has no pretensions of becoming a super hero; but when Wyatt Jackson (dubbed “Stigmatic Jack” by the press for his uncanny ability to produce bleeding palms) and his followers from the Church of the Testifying Prophet arrive to demonstrate during Pride Week celebrations, Quinn decides to shadow them, and maintain order as best he can. Because wherever Jackson appears, violence erupts, and people get hurt—including Quinn, who soon discovers that he is up against another telekinetic and telepath, one much stronger than he is. Locating and defeating the rogue telekinetic/telepath occupies Quinn for the better part of his vacation—when he isn’t going on disastrous blind dates, meeting hot leathermen, or being distracted by handsome police officers, that is.

Light by ‘Nathan Burgoine is part mystery, part romance, and part superhero novel. Which is not to say that Light emulates such “edgy” angst-filled comic book heroes as the X-Men; if you’ll pardon the pun, it is much lighter in tone. Using his abilities does not present Quinn with any moral dilemmas, for they are not inherently destructive; nor do they estrange him from his birth family.  In fact, when Quinn is ten years old, it is his mother, while in the hospital, who recognizes them for what they are, and trains him in using them before she dies. Moreover, Quinn is not a typical superhero, for more reasons than his being gay. He keeps his abilities under wraps, but he is not burdened with a secret identity; he does not patrol the streets of Ottawa after dark, fighting crime; he does not partner with the Ottawa Police Department to solve crimes; nor does he battle other costumed, super-powered villains. Quinn is, for all intents and purposes, simply an ordinary citizen with some extra-ordinary abilities.

Much of the humor in the novel comes from Quinn’s interaction with the other characters. Whether portraying the banter between Quinn and his co-worker Karen (who decides she wants to date Quinn’s older brother), or the awkward conversation Quinn has with a blind date he finds unattractive, and the equally awkward (albeit for different reasons) conversations Quinn has with Sebastien (who he is attracted to), Burgoine portrays each interaction honestly (haven’t we all kept a mental scoreboard when meeting a potential date for the first time?), and thus to maximum humorous effect.

Despite the jocular tone of the novel, Quinn is confronted with a serious problem, for the rogue telekinetic/telepath is out for blood, literally. When Quinn confronts Jackson and his followers, he himself is cut, and has a bicycle telekinetically thrown at him; he and Sebastien are both hospitalized (briefly) as a result of their injuries. Quinn, because of his weaker powers, is forced to use his abilities in more creative ways; for example, when he finally uncovers that Jackson is not the telekinetic/telepath he is battling, Quinn uses his own telepathy to combat Jackson’s message of hatred and exclusion.

Light, most of all, is a coming out story: Quinn may be an out and proud gay man, but he is not open about his mental abilities. Over the course of the novel he meets others like himself (both good and evil), battles prejudice, and eventually shares his secret with others (both super-powered and non).  In much the same way that Marvel Comics’ mutants have been seen as metaphors for GLBT individuals, Quinn’s coming out as a superhero is metaphoric of the path of self-acceptance that GLBT people must travel.

 

Light
by ‘Nathan Burgoine
Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, 9781602829534, 227 pp.
October 2013



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  • Ron Fritsch

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