(review by Leticia Lara)
I’m fascinated reading the works published by Claire North, a writer who is creating a good name (or a good pseudonym) in the community of science fiction.
In this novel, the author uses a not overly original device (the recent Tao saga by Wes Chu does the same), but she gives it a romantic twist that is works very well.
The device is the possession of other bodies by “ghosts.” Said this way it does not seem very attractive, but this phrase does not do justice to the complexity of the story that the author offers. If a being is able to jump from body to body just by touching it, would not it be virtually immortal? While the receiver body is healthy, the ghost will live. If the body has a problem, just change the “vessel” and continue living.
With this premise, many stories could be told and North delivers some very interesting ones. The main narration is based on a main character and his/her/it long life. But around this ghost we can see many, many supporting characters, each one more interesting than the other. The novel also changes background several times, showing different cities as it did in her Gamehouse novellas.
The narrative is fast-paced, with a rhythm in crescendo and with some flashbacks wisely dosed to serve as counterpoint and also to provide more depth on the biographies of the protagonists. This rate will reach its peak in some accelerated but not confusing end scenes. These scenes are of great merit due to their complexity, and I doubt a less gifted writer would have been able to write them.
I want to place special emphasis on the stylistic devices used by the author. I mentioned the flashbacks. But she also uses flash-forwards, in a kind of acceleration of time that serves to show the inherent confusion due to the jump-among-bodies method. North’s ability to play with the tempo of reading is amazing, expanding or shrinking it as needed. I’d love to see her writing a novel about time travel to watch her playing again with the fourth dimension.
Although Touch is a science fiction novel, it could also be tagged into other genres such as mystery or thriller because of the action scenes taking place in it. This mix of genres is a wise move in order to open the market to other readers who may not approach a book labeled science fiction.