I am trying to identify a book (or series) that I remember enjoying very much years ago. Probably in the 1980's or 90's.

One of those "crowded earth" type of societies, with big (underground?) cities and a carefully controlled society (reminds me of the Cities in Asimov's Robot series). People were only allowed to have a certain number of children, but many exceeded that and the kids were called "illegals". Such kids were not registered and didn't get rations, so they grow up underfed and street-smart, and some are "sold". If illegals are caught, they get registered and can live normally but with some limitations (can't reproduce).

There are some people with psi talents who are educated separately. They were called "Talented" (capital T).

One main story protagonist was an illegal girl who is discovered as being Talented.

One scene I remember clearly -- a Talented boy succeeds in controlling the takeoff (landing?) of a plane that just had to get off the ground but there was some reason (weather?) why it couldn't fly normally. Someone asked "where'd he learn to fly planes?" and someone answered that all boys relate to flying planes, or something like that.

Another few scenes: The illegal protagonist frees a group of kidnapped or sold children from some guarded and locked holding room on the industrial or storage levels.

The illegal protagonist gets to eat a real fruit or vegetable once an a while. In one scene she enjoys something crisp -- I think a pepper.

She is afraid of the people who find her when looking for Talent, but she ends up going with her. She is taken to someplace much more spacious and luxurious than she has ever seen. She is shown to a large private bathroom. She washes hands, face, neck, anything that is exposed before rejoining her "captors". Someone says or thinks that she should get points for nonchalance.

She meets there an older woman who had let her hair stay gray. The protagonist is surprised. The woman says something about having promised her husband she would grow old gracefully.

  • 1
    Good detail to start with. Do you remember specifically when you read this? Even a year range can help narrow down possibilities.
    – Radhil
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:04
  • Please add all of the scenes - it could help narrow down possibilities. Welcome to SFF!
    – Mithical
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


Pegasus in Flight

As director of the Jerhattan Parapsychic Center, telepath Rhyssa Owen coordinated the job assignments for psychically gifted Talents. And though she had her hands full dealing with the unreasonable demand for kinetics to work on the space platform that would be humankind's stepping-stone to the stars, she was always ready to welcome new Talents to the Center.

Feisty and Streetwise, twelve-year-old Tirla used her extraordinary knack for languages to eke out a living in the Linear developments, where the poor struggled to make ends meet and children were conscripted or sold into menial work programs. Young Peter, paralyzed in a freak accident, hoped someday to get into space where zero gravity would enable him to function more easily. Both desperately needed help only other Talents could provide.

With the appearance in her life of one extraordinary man with no measurable Talent at all, Rhyssa suddenly found herself questioning everything she thought she knew about her people. And when two Talented children were discovered to have some very unusual --and unexpected-- abilities, she realized that she would have to reassess the potential of all Talentkind...

Tirla is the illegal due to her being outside the accepted number of births. Peter is the one who telekinetically carries the aircraft (more importantly for the series, he can boost his power by drawing upon electrical power).

For the quote regarding planes:

“I don’t believe this,” Rhyssa muttered softly. “Who taught him to fly planes?”

“Every boy in this generation understands shuttle craft,” Don remarked, but his expression was no less bemused than theirs. He watched as the Erasmus climbed slowly up into the swirling rain and clouds and out of sight. They followed it up to the supersonic level.

The kidnapped kids are in a railcar, and she rescues them by getting Peter to shift the cars so that empty ones are where the kidnappers expected them.

The pepper scene:

Tirla had started to drink and eat with quick sharp bites and snatched swallows, as if she was torn between eating and drinking and afraid that the food would suddenly disappear. All three telepaths were aware of a sudden lightening of her carefully guarded thoughts as she made inroads on the snacks. The pastry melted in her mouth, releasing tastes that satisfied unknown cravings with textures that titillated her tongue, from the reassuring crisp watery tang of the green peppers to the bite of sharp cheese and savory meat fillings.

Bathroom nonchalence:

An apprehensive Tirla reentered the room, surreptitiously trailing fingers along wooden surfaces and across the sofa backs. Sascha noticed that she had washed hands, arms, neck, face, and that portion of her chest that was visible above the round neck of her rather worn clothing. She had brushed her long hair neatly back over her shoulders. Sascha thought of the cheerless functionality of subsistence living quarters and gave Tirla another full mark for nonchalance.

And "growing old gracefully":

“This is Peter Reidinger, Ms. Horvath.” The way Miz Allen cocked her right eyebrow told Peter that he had better behave himself.

Ms. Horvath just smiled down at him, her eyes twinking, and they were not at all old, or rheumy, or hard. He wondered she let herself look so old.

I promised my husband that I would grow old gracefully, she startled him by saying. That way I wouldn’t surprise people so much when I don’t act my age.

  • That's it! Thank you. It was driving me crazy!
    – Basya
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:47
  • ^_^ As soon as you mentioned the girl illegal due to population control, it popped into my head.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:48
  • 1
    Frankly, you have an amazing memory for the quotes. I could pretty much search for them verbatim.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 6, 2016 at 14:54
  • The quotes I remembered. I had loved the book. But I couldn't remember the basic plot or the name Tirla! I was thinking "Talia" but was pretty sure it wasn't right....anyway, thank you!
    – Basya
    Dec 8, 2016 at 14:43
  • And I got the wrong conversation partner when Ms. Horvath said she would grow old gracefully. So some of my memory was good and some not!
    – Basya
    Dec 8, 2016 at 15:31

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