Polar City Blues by Katharine Kerr (1990)
A young derelict who can read minds tries to survive in the slums of the misnamed Polar City. The colonial world is so hot people need personal tents if they go into the open air. When he helps the police “read” a murdered alien ambassador, he places himself and his friends in danger. Cursed with his ESP gifts, he’s a second-rate baseball player, a junkie, and a bum. Fortunately, he’s got an occasional girlfriend, a retired space navy officer with a lot of Polar City contacts. Together they save a stranded alien, battle a super-telepath, and save Polar City from a plague.
The ambassador is dead, so is a new alien lifeform with a frightened mate terrorizing folk in the landfill. Lacey, the cashiered space officer, tries not to let her feelings for the young man interfere with her chances of survival in a carefully crafted niche she’s created for herself. Will she waste everything she’s built for a kid who attracts trouble like flies?
Solid space opera with caring characters, colorful environs, and non-stop action. I really like unconventional heroes and all the players in this tale are sympathetic, and I worried about them all the way through. I thought the society in the landfill was interesting and unique. The setting is definitely original. Katherine Kerr is definite readable, and she knows her stuff when it comes to creating a capable ensemble in a tough situation.
The solution to all their problems? A space battle, of course.