One of my many goals this year as I do my reading is to expose myself to a lot more of Timothy Zahn’s non-Star Wars writing. He is most well-known for his Thrawn Trilogy, but he has a lot of other stellar work to offer. A Coming of Age isn’t the first non-Star Wars book of his I’ve read, and hopefully it won’t be the last.
A Coming of Age takes place on a post-Earth world known as Tigris where the environment gives small children a very powerful form of telekinesis at the age of five that grows stronger up until puberty when it then vanishes. As a result, society has put a lot of strict controls on what children can know and do up until puberty in order to prevent a rebellion like happened when Tigris was first settled. Lisa Duncan is one of those children, and while she is not a threat to start a rebellion, she has a natural curiosity that is bound to get her into a little mischief. Stanley Tirrell is a local law enforcement detective who winds up working a kidnapping case that he quickly discovers is so much more than a simple kidnapping.
What I like most about A Coming of Age is that it’s a crime caper. The book is filled with scenes of finding evidence, extrapolating what the evidence means, and then following up on the various leads. On the side is Lisa getting involved with the case inadvertently, and thinking she has discovered something terrible happening to a friend. As it turns out her friend is fine, but some of the things she’s witnessed in her own amateur investigation helps Tirrell get to the root of what’s happening with his kidnapping case. The kidnapper turns out to be using the young boy he took for the good of society, but in discovering that, Tirrell discovers a different operation that poses great danger to everyone. This, of course, turns the entire story on its head in the final act.
There is a lot to like about A Coming of Age as a story on the whole, but it still is not as strong as some of the other Zahn books I’ve read. However, I did look up when it was published and it first hit the shelves in 1984, the year I was born. I have a feeling that this story might have had a lot more impact back then than it does today.