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.
Claire North is quickly turning into one of my favourite authors with two astounding novels that have quickly blown me away. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was a spellbinding, original and inventive read and Touch is another novel of a similar ilk, focusing around a different protagonist but nonetheless incredibly entertaining, sending us into the guise of Kepler, a man who can possess bodies at whim, seeing lives through the eyes of their hosts for minutes or lifetimes, it doesn’t matter. It starts with his death, and explodes from there.
The prose is incredibly well written and at the same time, Touch moves along super fast, balancing the character development with story and action very well. The premise is instantly appealing, with the ability to jump between characters at will, including between both females and males. When Kepler is possessing a woman named Josephine Cubla who gets killed in a Turkish Metro station by someone who knows what Kepler can do, the book turns into a hunt for answers that takes place across a vast span of locations. As the curtain is peeled back we start to learn more about Kepler and the fact that he’s being hunted by someone or something who knows what he can do, adding an element of intrigue which really works.
The interesting development of the characters comes when you look at the Ghosts themselves. Most don’t really care what happens to their hosts, and why should they? They can just move onto the next one at a whim, but Keplar is different and protects his inhabitants well throughout the centuries. It’s an interesting motivation for the character and provides for the spark of mystery and intrigue to kick off. Yes, there is a lot of body swapping which could present some confusion, but if you pay attention you shouldn’t get too lost. The blend between flashbacks and present narrative could have easily been a jumbled mess and whilst it may be overly complex to some, I very much enjoyed Touch. It’s original, smart and richly compelling with a powerful prose.
The concept is the main drawing point of the novel but the characters are equally fascinating and the premise holds up well. As a standalone science fiction novel, Touch doesn’t disappoint, making it two out of two for Claire North books that I’ve read and enjoyed. Her Gamehouse novellas just leapt up to the top of my to-read list and I really can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Highly Recommended.