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Claire North
Claire North Published in October 20, 2018, 7:48 pm


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Clive Reply to on 13 October 2017
Some time ago, a colleague recommended another Claire North book, 'The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August' and I still hold it to be one of the best novels that I've ever read. So, upon seeing 'Touch' on my Kindle page, I didn't need any persuading to buy it. I was right; it's fantastic!

As with other Claire North books, she takes a fairly simple, but physically impossible, concept and the uses it as the basis for a story that works on many different levels; a thriller, a love story, an exploration of human nature, an expose of prejudice etc. In 'The First Fifteen Lives ...' the concept is one of perpetual reincarnation. In 'Touch' the concept is that a sentient entity, with a mind and a memory but with no corporeal body, can occupy and take over any human with which it can make skin to skin contact. Once 'possessed', the human simply blanks out and wakes up, minutes, hours, days or years later, when the entity leaves it to move on to another body and the 'host' has no memory of anything that was done while the entity occupied its body. One of the things that makes this book so brilliant is the detail of the mechanics of how this possession works. The only thing that prevents the entity from living forever, simply moving into a new body when required, is that, if the host body dies while the entity remains in possession, then the entity dies too.

As with other CN books, the basic concept isn't original. The 1998 film 'Fallen', starring Denzel Washington, has a very similar theme, with Washington playing a detective trying to catch a serial killer who is, actually, a demon called Azazel which can take control of any sentient body that it touches. What makes the CN novels stand out is the literary skill with which the ideas are conveyed.

Here, the main character is referred to as 'Kepler' but, not only are we told that this is an invented name but we never even discover the gender of Kepler as all such entities, known as 'ghosts', occupy both male and female hosts indiscriminately. Kepler has existed for some 400 years and remembers everything of its experiences in hundreds of hosts.

The tension required to power the thriller element comes from the conflict with a 'baddie' entity called 'Galileo'. Galileo has a penchant for taking control of a body and then making it do terrible things, including massacres of innocents before making the host kill itself as Galileo jumps to another body.. One of the strange things for me was that, while reading this book, the mass shooting in Las Vegas in which Stephen Paddock fired automatic weapons into a crowd at a concert, killing 58 and injuring 500 others, before killing himself; a real life event that mirrored, exactly, how Galileo operates in this fictional novel. The thriller element of the book concludes with the inevitable face-off between Kepler (good entity) and Galileo (bad

But this book works on more than one level. By removing traditional concepts of gender or sexual attraction, this manages to tease out intriguing concepts of the nature of love. Kepler truly loves several of the bodies that he/she inhabits as well as a complex array of shades of love for others around him. When a 'host' falls in love with Kepler, given that Kepler occupies many bodies of all ages, genders and proclivities, it is a brilliant exploration of stripping appearance and gender from the concept of love.

The end of this book gets just a little confusing, as the chase between two entities has them switching bodies with lightning speed, leaving the reader to catch up. In addition, there are a couple of details that remain unexplained; for example, it seems that, sometimes, one entity can recognize another entity, in whatever body it currently occupies while, at other times, this isn't possible. But these are very minor criticisms in what is, really, a genuine blockbuster of a book.

I absolutely loved this book and I'll read more of Claire North's work.
William Donelson
William Donelson Reply to on 9 October 2016
Brilliant, imaginative, unusual! A wonderful and terrible monster deeply examined and presented.

Claire North has again (after Harry August) proven her vision and originality, and her discipline in bringing such unusual characters to vivid life. The rhythm of her prose is marvellous. It was so good to sink into her writing again!

Here, her immortal monster-parasite struggles between the fear of death and the cost to others of her life. So many aspects of life as such an entity are deeply examined by North. To be such a creature stealing moments or minutes from people's lives is to be a thief. To live as a monster stealing months or years is the most cruel of assaults, a kind of murder. Indeed, we see one victim whose entire adult life has been stolen for decades, leaving him a broken old man. Truly monstrous.

North's careful examination and consideration of these issues is the very best aspect of this book. Wonderful!

The pacing is very good and twists in the story are clever and satisfying. At only one point did I feel that a plot shortcut was pressed on the reader, but it was brief and only a bump in the road.

The action sequences are wonderfully confusing, as the viewpoint switches at a maddening pace.

Just as in Harry August, North again imagines an ancient daydream of human minds and brings it to vibrant, fascinating life!
Nick Brett
Nick Brett Reply to on 3 September 2016
Claire North gave us the very entertaining “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” and follows it up with “Touch”.
Touch features an individual who can ‘jump’ bodies just by touching flesh, bodies being left are left confused and wondering where the time has gone, with no memories of what may have happened while they were “occupied”. So for hundreds of years our individual has been jumping into men and women and living various lives and identities.
As we join the book, our individual (“Kepler”) narrowly escapes when “her” host is assassinated and she realises that an organisation is hunting her. As Kepler is tracked through many body swaps, she/he tries to find out why she is a target…
Harry August had elements of one of my favourite books, “Replay” and this has a nod towards the sci-fi book “Jumper”, a human with abilities being tracked by a shadowing organisation, but Claire North is a talented author and very much gives her own spin. You have to concentrate (Multiple body jumping just on one page is not unusual), but many interesting aspect are raised within a satisfying plot.
Like “Harry August”, this comes down to a battle between two individuals with unique abilities but it is clever and absorbing stuff.
Dave Cox
Dave Cox Reply to on 19 September 2016
Enjoyed this imaginative book immensely, Claire North is a fine writer who engulfs her reader like a long hot bath, you just want to stay in for ages (with vino)
This is a much tighter read than '15 lives' (which was great!) and the clever devices add twist to the plot very well. From interviewing your recent host via other 'Skins', leaving bewildered people trashed on tequila in bars, popping through airport security, to being caught in the final demise of a fellow 'Jumper' who has just had enough, they all keep you enthralled as you travel the world. More investigative thriller than Sci-Fi action tale, the whole thing zips along nicely and makes the 'Jump' from one to the other quite easily. Some nice one liners, such as 'are you threatening me with condiments' (you had to be there) made me laugh out loud, and made the whole story well worth the read. I look forward to her next book, a real gem of a writer.
Don'tWantToWrite Reply to on 13 January 2016
The protagonist and narrator of Claire North’s Touch moves between bodies as easily as you or I try on clothes. The movement is so swift that the reader is almost left behind. A quick slip of a sentence to the next line and Kepler, as its foes call it, is a child holding a mother’s hand, a businessman walking to work, or even the US president.

The movement between bodies is reflected in the passing descriptions of the cities Kepler travels through, from Paris to New York, that invoke a world of kinetic energy that’s only wasted when we’re standing still. The effect is one of constant motion and it’s dizzying and sickly and sweet all at once.

Equally effective is the narrator, Kepler, who steals entire lives on a whim. It, described as such because its true gender is never revealed, changes mood as easily as people, striking out against rapists by ruining their lives, or operating as an estate agent, the term used to describe a broker in skins.

Kepler battles against an organisation intent on destroying its kind throughout the novel, so it’s always on the run, while North deals scenarios that reveal, bit by bit, the devastation that Kepler’s kind can cause. Opposite this theme is another that shows Kepler cannot help what it is, which acts as a counter weight that pulls the reader in multiple directions: right or wrong, the scale is always tipping between the two.

Touch is novel of movement that never lets the reader pause for breath. It’s as meaningful as The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August but nowhere near as linear. Readers with a penchant for the science fiction of the individual should read this, as long as they’re sitting down.
Antonia N.
Antonia N. Reply to on 11 August 2018
I've now read three of Claire's books, and enjoyed them all immensely, which is good because I've been on the lookout for a new favourite author since I lost Iain (M) Banks ( yes, that's what it felt like, a personal loss, because when you come to love the work of a writer how do you avoid falling a little for the mind that shuffled the words to make that pattern?) This is the first time an opportunity has popped up in my face upon finishing one of her books to take a moment to review it - the others were analogue. I found this book intriguing in its premise, and unexpected in the direction it took. Claire has a way of skimming along the peaks of some quite profound ideas and implications (I will never think of estate agents in quite the same way again) to keep the story moving, and sometimes I think I might have preferred it if she had spent more time exploring those ideas and implications, but as it is I've been thinking about them myself anyway. I love a book that makes me think. I've given this one five stars because it deserves it, but that said I would have given the tale about Harry August more than that, because it is the best book I've read in years (Monty Python voice - 'and I've read a few!') Read both. Oh! Hope Arden. Read all three. That's it from me , as I now have an appointment with Charlie.
Anngeorge Reply to on 21 April 2016
I've been trying to finish this book but I think I have finally given up on it after 260 pages. The story is intriguing but I don't like the writing style - i think it is pretentious and irritating and the writer rambles a lot. The main character is unlikeable.
Mehitabel Reply to on 11 January 2017
I have recently read ‘Touch’ for our bookclub. I stuck with it to the very end since I felt duty-bound.

This is the sort of one-idea, content-lite ‘thriller’ that is just about tolerable if you’re on a plane journey or whiling away time in airports and have nothing else whatsoever to read. I really do not understand the excellent reviews this book has received.

The author appears to have fixated upon one idea – ghosts that inhabit and switch bodies, and a life-and-death pursuit by a shady organisation – and absolutely fails to develop the characters, any motive for their actions, or indeed any kind of plot. In fact, I read this book as a shameless attempt to court a movie option, it’s just the kind of ‘story’ and idea that appeals to the makers of trash action thrillers aimed at the 16 to 25 year old male moviegoer market.

We simply never learn enough about the central character, Kepler, to feel any investment in him/it, or any connection. Kepler is as far as we can tell, a several hundred years old ghost, who has spent the time jumping from body to body, using them as vehicles with little thought for his/its hosts. The author does make a feeble attempt to offer Kepler as an ethical ghost who chooses his/its subjects with care and tries to leave them undamaged afterwards, but this is unconvincing. We are expected to believe that the triggering event at the start of the novel is the foundation of Kepler’s antipathy for his pursuer Nathan and engagement with the other villains of the novel. Kepler ‘loves’ Josephine, but we are not offered anything of her or their relationship, nor any glimpse of why Kepler should feel distress at her death, beyond the most basic of cardboard cutouts. The villains are similarly sketchy and inadequately presented, comic-strip silhouettes, so I felt no sense of menace, tension or any reason to want Kepler to escape or overcome.

The pace of the ‘plot’, if you can call it that, was one note. A constant, choppy pursuit. There were few places for introspection or anywhere for the author to give us room to breathe, and get to know the characters better, connect with them and care about the outcome. Frankly, I could not care whether any of them lived or died.

The writing style, while not actually deplorable (stand up, Dan Brown), is extremely clipped and episodic. It felt rather like a ‘what I did on my school holidays’ kind of story. The ending was one of the most pathetic damp squibs I have read in a long time.

This book was neither poignant nor gripping. ‘Touch’ is yet another example of overblown marketing of a book that is lacklustre and disappointing.
Qasim Reply to on 19 April 2018
i picked up this book because i read her previous book that was called
'The first fifteen lives of harry august'.

that book was really incredible and i found it to be a great look at the ideas of time and space and what would happen in you were born again and again and again in perpetuity.

this book was also great i enjoyed it but not as much as her previous work.
Super Gompen
Super Gompen Reply to on 15 February 2016
I really enjoyed this book. The concept of the 'ghost' jumpers is a really cool one, and Ms North writes in an evocative, gripping manner.

If I'm going to offer any criticism it's that I felt the pace dropped off a little in the last quarter of the book, and that there is a quirky, unique use of extra paragraph at times - which I suspect are there to increase tension - that don't quite work for me, and I would occasionally find myself confused as to which character had said what during dialogue as a result (maybe a weird Kindle formatting issue?). All of that said, It was a terrific read and I look forward to more from Claire North; she's clearly a very talented writer.
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