Touch, by Clair North

Did you read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August? Did you love it? If you read it, you must have loved it. I refuse to believe that anyone who read that book wasn’t moved, horrified, awed, amused, saddened… pick a verb, any verb. There aren’t enough verbs.

Touch is exactly the same, but totally different. Ms North returns to themes of time and humanity in her second novel, but using an entirely different conceit. Instead of being reborn, over and over, to live the same life again, Kepler–the protagonist of Touch–lives a different life, indefinitely. Kepler jumps from body to body, lingering for seconds or decades, always a familiar stranger.

Like Harry August, Kepler is no hero. S/he survives, sometimes at great cost to others. There’s a certain ruthless compassion in Ms North’s characters, especially her central characters. They are intensively humane, but the wear of time engenders an overarching dispassion. Pathos is entirely absent, even when characters are in the midst of tragic circumstance. This quality makes for a quiet, absorbing novel that lingers in my memory. Touch is one of those books that you live, not just read, and is so far my favorite novel published this year.

NOTES:
2016 Hugo Eligibility: Yes, Feb 2015
Publisher: Redhook
Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: SF

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