“Lesser Evil” by ‘Nathan Burgoine from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

This story is constructed of onion-like layers. Its complexity, coupled with the fact that a great many of the characters have—and are referred to by—two names, meant that about halfway through I had to admit to myself that I was lost. I thought about re-starting and keeping an actual pen-and-paper tally of the players, but I forged on and at about the three-quarters mark found my way clear again. Then I immediately went back and re-read it.

It’s told really well. It’s just an awful lot of information to digest. The second time through, when I knew who was who and could focus on smaller details, I liked it immensely. It’s just that it deals with what’s happening now; then a couple of things that happened long ago; and some things from the not-so-distant and still-nearer past, before getting back to the present. And it has all those names.

This just might be what prompted people to push ‘Nathan to write a novel.

Tristan Edwards is telepathic. You may have guessed that, going in, if you are at all familiar with the author’s work. Tristan’s also gay, and was pretty much rejected by his father because of it. He’s felt like an outsider his whole life. He seems not to have had any friends while growing up. Somehow, though, when the chips were really down he managed to contact the North American Metahuman Defence Agency.

Even with them, however, he didn’t fit in. Apparently, telepaths aren’t trusted anywhere, and they’re a public relations nightmare. Tristan didn’t help matters any by his actions in the group. Not surprisingly, his rocky childhood has left him something of a mess, emotionally.

The story takes place after he’s no longer affiliated with the agency. They need Tristan’s help, and so the guy who sent him off the rails shows up at his door.

Isn’t that always the way?