Book Review: Touch by Claire North
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Orbit (February 24, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Does the idea of a unique, sc-fi thriller excite you? Read this book. Love wild, mind-trip movies like Inception? Read this book. If you’re looking for a smart, entertaining, and psychologically hard-hitting novel, this is what it looks like. READ THIS BOOK.
Touch was, in a word, fascinating. “Have you been losing time?” I don’t think I can ever hear or read this phrase again without getting a shiver down my spine. Imagine, if you will, a group or species of near-immortal people (they call themselves “Ghosts”) that can jump from body to body, taking their hosts over and seeing through their eyes, feeling what they feel. They can choose to be anyone they want, live any life they want…and all it takes is a single touch – and JUMP. Whether the possession is for two seconds, two days, or twenty years, the hosts won’t remember after the Ghost jumps away to another body again. Have you ever looked at your cellphone and see a call you don’t remember making? Or found yourself somewhere, without knowing how you got there? Have. You. Ever. Lost. Time?
Our protagonist is one of these Ghosts, given the name “Kepler”. The story begins with Kepler dying in her/his latest body Josephine Cebula, gunned down in a Turkish Metro station by a man who is clearly aware of Kepler’s nature and unique abilities. Kepler jumps bodies in pursuit of the mysterious killer hoping to get answers, and ends up wearing the killer’s body itself. Someone or some organization has been hunting down and destroying the Ghosts, and Kepler is determined to find the truth and avenge her/his beloved Josephine.
This book is getting lots of love from me based on the inventiveness and ingenuity of the premise alone. It’s especially a great read if you enjoy what-if stories and thought experiments, though imagining possible scenarios based on the theories in this novel might take you places you don’t want to go. Imagine being an unwilling victim of a Ghost, waking up having no idea where you are, with these people you don’t know who claim to be your children, finding out it’s suddenly twenty years later, and the last thing you remember is shaking hands with a stranger – a lifetime ago. Imagine the violation and trauma of knowing someone else had been in your body, using it doing God knows what. Imagine the memories and experiences you’ll never get the chance to have, because precious time was stolen from you.
Some Ghosts give very little thought to their hosts but Kepler is different, having cherished her/his hosts through all the centuries he/she has been jumping bodies. But everyone, even Ghosts, have their limits when pushed, and will do anything it takes to stay alive. At times, Kepler might come across as selfish and callous, but these situations only arise when he/she feels threatened and cornered. Small consolation for the victims who lose their lives because of Kepler’s actions, perhaps, but it does make me think slightly better of her/him.
This book reads like a mystery for the most part, relying on the unknown and strategically dropped hints to keep the plot moving evenly along, though it also has a handful of the most memorable action sequences I’ve ever read. Claire North makes good use of a Ghost’s body-jumping talents, almost taking them to gimmicky heights, to write some insanely good gunfight scenes. Just think about it. Yes, they are as awesome as you can imagine.
Of course, it also wouldn’t be such a unique book if it didn’t present its own set of potential problems. There will be moments of confusion, and it can’t be helped. The narrative jumps around a lot because of the constant body switching. There are flashback chapters that help us understand the main character, but they can also break up the pacing and slow things down. The story builds and builds and gets so complicated at times that it stumbles over itself. But for me, all that is a small price to pay for such an incredible and original story. As always, YMMV!
All told, Touch was a delightful surprise. Above all, I adored the concept and I think this would make an excellent movie, if only someone could pull it off (quick, someone send a copy to Christopher Nolan!) Thrilling, imaginative and entertaining, this book kept me reading well into the night.