Yet another triumph for North.
Kepler is like you, but not like you. With a simple touch, Kepler can move into any body, live any life - for a moment, a day or for years. And your life could be next. SOME PEOPLE TOUCH LIVES. OTHERS TAKE THEM. I DO BOTH.
Touch by Claire North is a stand alone novel set in a modern era with a focus on entities known as ghosts who live by possessing others. With the Harry August novel, the Touch novel and the Gamehouse novellas, North has set herself a trend of exploring the concept of immortality through some different and unique ways.
Touch tells the story of Kepler, a "ghost" who was born as the result of a violent death hundreds of years ago. Kepler can only exist by possessing people, an act that takes complete control of a host and leaves them with no memory of the time they were possessed. Kepler is not the only one of his kind, there are many ghosts scattered all over the globe, and while the plot may focus on Kepler and his battle against an evil ghost named Galileo, the real story of Touch is the search for a semblance of humanity by an entity that can only ever assume their host's identity, never able to completely subsume the host, and therefore never able to live a life of their own.
As expected, the world that has been crafted by North is a most excellent fictional retelling of our own history, with the history of the ghosts having been inserted like they were always a part of our history. Ghosts have taken men into battle, ghosts have turned a petulant child into a blossoming young adult, ghosts are responsible for those out-of-character acts done by people who know better. North leaves no stone unturned as she crafts a world that seems so real, and it is a testament to her knowledge, research, and sheer creativity. Like all of her previous worlds, I have become so lost in the world of Touch and would love more and more stories set in this world.
The entity known by others as Kepler is the protagonist for this story, a ghost who began human life as a man but over the centuries has transitioned to a more neutral state where male, female, or non-binary gender is just a natural extension of who Kepler is. I love the concept of Kepler, but Kepler the person leaves a lot to be desired (deliberately so, I think). Kepler has lived for many years but is still incredibly naive and incredibly dense, openly compassionate whilst being silently selfish. Kepler has always tried hard to leave the smallest footprint possible with intent to make the host's life better, but always managing to destroy many lives in the process. It's really hard to empathise with an immortal being like Kepler, especially one who is so self-righteous that they can't see the harm that they cause, but North imbues Kepler with such endearing qualities that you can’t help but be fascinated by the damn entity and all the awesome / terrible things it does.
Touch is yet another triumph for North, and while Kepler may not be as likeable as some of the other North characters, Kepler's story is just as powerful as the stories from North's other characters, with some very deep explorations about life, immortality and the nature of humanity. North is clearly setting the benchmark for the literary style of speculative fiction, and I'm totally on board with anything she writes under any of the pen names she chooses.
Review by Ryan Lawler
Rae from Australia
I had no idea what to expect when I began reading Touch even though I had glimpsed the synopsis. The idea of ghosts who have not died, moving from person to person is ingenious and original. The author has a beautiful use of language and the ability to bring the reader's imagination to life and make it all sound so possible. I did feel however that about two-thirds of the way into the story, I was reading 'page fillers'. As if there was an effort to make the book longer and parts of it felt 'dragged out'. Specifically when Kepler drags Nathan Cole from place to place in search of their 'contact'. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book immensely and recommend it to readers looking for something a bit different.
8.5/10 from 2 reviews