Book Review: Touch

Touch by Claire North

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.


Last year I read a book by Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and it was awesome. Plain awesomeness in a book. When I visited Loncon3 last year, Gemma from Orbit notified me that Claire North was publishing another surefire winner in 2015. Something different than Harry August, it was this book that she mentioned, Touch. There was also a big mystery last year about who Claire North was. When it was revealed I was surprised to find out that it was a new pseudonym of Catherine Webb who also writes under Kate Griffin of which I am a big fan, Matthew Swift and Magicals Anonymous are terrific series. But just to get back to Touch, this is a great read, directly in the lines of what I have come to expect of Claire North, highly inventive, touching and a whole lot of fun. But in this book there is something added to it, something that I hadn't seen that much in Harry August, this is a Thriller and with the bold idea behind of "body jumping" it fully comes to work it magic. As was proclaimed early, I can verify it, Touch is another winner. 

What falls directly to note from the start of the story is the fast pacing of it. From the beginning of the assassination of Josephine Cebula right down to the ending it will bring you on the edge of your seat. So as I said, the story picks up with the assassination of Josephine Cebula, one of the character that has a direct focus from the start. But so after this happens you learn that there actually is someone present in the body of Josephine. A presence who is able to jump, not a few feet into the air, no from body to body by touching the person. This entity is known as "Kepler". It remains to be found out what Kepler is, male or female (but I am going to refer to Kepler as he, it makes typing the review easier but it remains to be found out). Kepler is a peaceful "ghost", (ghosts are the people that can jump and inhabit the body of others), he has been riding Josephine's body for a while now and finds this planned assassination strange. He wants answers, why was Josephine the target of assassination? But mover over, Kepler is one of the ghosts that doesn't exploits the people why he inhabits them but helps them further, with studying or other kind of things, steal from the rich give to the poor. He is a philanthropist. Lets get back to it, Kepler only takes on the name Kepler when he jumps into the assassins body and finds a file on "Kepler" with his bodies in their. It might also seem that they weren't only after Josephine... During his investigation Kepler opens up a whole can of worms discovering some truths that were perhaps better not know to him and others of the public. It seems that an organization known as Aquarius was planning something with medication. Medication that could immunize people from being taken over, or that could turn them into ghosts. Kepler also stumbles on another ghost who goes by the name of Galileo, who is dangerous and remains an enigma to everyone... This is just a short explanation of the story but all the events that follow on this direct into link and spilling more would spoil your surprise to this book and some plot twists. The story of Touch is action packed and highly enjoyable to read.

Once again Claire North really surprised me with her story. The whole concept of body jumping was just very cool. And just as with the incarnations of Harry August in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. She builds on this concept in the fullest, showing the bigger picture but also focusing on the details and it is this that makes the story and idea of body jumping rock solid. It might take a single touch of skin to jump. But there is more. Here are a few things. You do not switch when  person jumps into your body. Instead the "native" personality is put in something of a comatose state and during the time that it hosts a ghost it will draw a blank, he doesn't know what goes on. Also the minds of the native person and ghost aren't linked, which means that memories aren't transferred and this in turn means that meeting a friend of relative of an inhabited person that they can ask questions you don't know the answer to. There for you have brokers... It is these small things, these details that truly completes the story. it's not only laying a foundation but building a complete endless skyscraper on top of it.

One other thing that I found particularly cool about Touch was the world building. the story takes place in our current day I reckon. Most thrillers do take place in either London or some place in America. Well Claire North opted to let the story take place in Europe, and mainly in Eastern Europe: Germany and Slovakia are just two countries among several others that are visited. I don't know what it is but somehow when stories take place in these countries it just inspires so much more, might be history that helps me. Added to this comes a very nice and clear description of the surroundings that help bolster the effect. 

As for the character of the story Kepler. I liked him. As with Harry August, he isn't alone with his gift. I already named him a philanthropist, he wants to do people he possesses good for continuing with their lives, whereas others see the bodies as things to be used for fun, leaving their hosts in more than a state of confusion. It becomes clear all throughout the story that Kepler rather helps people than destroying them. They aren't only current examples but also the history of Kepler and what he did in the past is revealed. Because once you go ghost you... oh wait that doesn't rhyme, but anyway with becoming a ghost you sort of gain immortality, as long as you continue to jump around, so you can imagine that Kepler has an extensive knowledge of the world and everything in it. He speaks many languages just to start with.  

So what finally remains to said is: Read this book! Claire North's is on a sure fire winning streak. Just as with The First Fifteen Lives, Claire North has gone out of her league with the story of Touch. Touch for me was a definite darker tinge story that The First Fifteen Lives, owing to the chasing and also with the body jumping. Kepler is shown as a very interesting and enjoyable protagonist and has his work cut out for him. One thing that I totally forgot to mention was the control that Claire North has with body jumping, it is easy to jump from person to person, but in all case none of the ghosts do this. The details and bigger picture that Claire North shows with body jumping and inhabiting it, an action reaction sequence makes a very nice whole to the story. And let's not forget the world building in Eastern Europe. Just pitch perfect, a brilliant atmosphere! The story of Touch could readily, no let me rephrase, should readily be opted to be turned in a movie. Forget all the other thrillers, this is one of the biggest things this year. make sure you read this one.  

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