Review: Touch by Claire North
Also by this author: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Published by Orbit on February, 24, 2015
Kepler had never meant to die this way — viciously beaten to death by a stinking vagrant in a dark back alley. But when reaching out to the murderer for salvation in those last dying moments, a sudden switch takes place.
Now Kepler is looking out through the eyes of the killer himself, staring down at a broken and ruined body lying in the dirt of the alley.
Instead of dying, Kepler has gained the ability to roam from one body to another, to jump into another person’s skin and see through their eyes, live their life -- be it for a few minutes, a few months or a lifetime.
Kepler means these host bodies no harm — and even comes to cherish them intimately like lovers. But when one host, Josephine Cebula, is brutally assassinated, Kepler embarks on a mission to seek the truth — and avenge Josephine’s death.
Touch by Claire North is a thrilling and unexpected journey through time and people. It starts with a murder in a crowded train station and quite frankly, just keeps running at full speed.
This is a book about the experience of walking in another’s skins. Literally. Ghosts exist by commandeering the bodies of the living, using their bodies/skins as vessels necessary for their survival. The unsuspecting hosts wake upon the ghosts exit to find themselves with minutes/days/years of their lives gone, with no awareness of the ghost that had inhabited them, or what they had done during this time. The time is just gone.
The jumping from person to person is concept that is executed extremely well in this novel. Hearing the ghosts assessment of their current body, finding out what they value in a host and just their attitude towards these people that are unwittingly there for the ghosts survival is quite interesting. Some ghosts take the approach of utmost respect, trying to do what they can to compensate their hosts, possibly even making a pre-discussed arrangement, others see humans more like cattle, or maybe coats. Something disposable to wear until you tire of it or it starts to *gasp* age.
Our main character is one of the respectful ones. Or at least he/she/it tries to be. She sees the beauty in people and becomes quite attached to her skins. When one of them is murdered, she becomes determined to find out why while also being hunted by the same group of people.
While most people in the world are completely oblivious to the existence of ghosts, there are some interesting exceptions (I won’t mention them all, because some things are better read than told in a review).
Wrap this concept around a thriller style plot comprised of a running for survival paired with a quest for answers and a mission of vengeance and you end up with an original and exciting read.
If you follow my reviews, you may know that I struggled a bit with The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. I always felt so conflicted about this because I could admire North’s writing, but I just couldn’t get in to the plot. I was quite curious how I would respond to a different book and am quite happy to say, I greatly enjoyed her writing and the story in this one. Touch is unlike any other book I’ve read in all the best ways. I love the insight and reflections from experiencing anyone and everyone in a crowd, the unique perspectives given from a ghost living among/within us. Definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys something a bit different and/or thriller stories.