Kick by John L. Monk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As a college student, Daniel killed himself over love lost. But his existence didn’t end there. Stuck in a limbo he calls ‘The Great Somewhere’, he finds he can exit through a kind of gate and spend 3 to 4 weeks in the body of a living man. The good thing is, he can enjoy pie again. The bad thing is, the guy he’s inhabiting is a nasty killer. Unable to access any of his host’s memories, he must use his wits to navigate the living man’s life, friends, and foes, to discover what he has been brought out of limbo to do. But when he does, his accomplishment becomes confused wonder as he’s given a ticket out of limbo again and again and usually to deal with the same sort of conscience-less killer. Connections to his life as Daniel occasionally come up and he understands them as small tests; ones he often fails. Then one day, he finds himself in the body of someone not a psychopathic predator. What is he meant to do?
This is the second book in one month I have read that deals with the idea of a personality piggy-backing on a living person (the other being A Warm Place to Call Home by Michael Siemsen). But where the protagonist in Siemsen’s book does not know exactly what he is, Daniel has all of his memories of life as a human man, even if he would rather not. Where A Warm Place speculates on the meaning of identity, Kick is about self-understanding, forgiveness, and redemption. It’s also about becoming a grown-up, something that Daniel did not allow himself to do.
With a young man’s passion, Daniel is frequently ruthless with his hosts, whom he refers to as ‘rides,’ though his ruthlessness is often anger on behalf of their victims. He is clever and resourceful, but he’s also aware that limbo hasn’t seemed to have made a real dent in his callowness. (He killed himself, after all, to make sure the girl who dumped him never forgets him.) But when his latest ride turns out to be a decent guy, he recognizes it as the opportunity it is. If he can make use of it.
It’s a difficult thing to balance self-examination while simultaneously trying to find your way through dangerous situations and author Monk does a good job of making Daniel’s struggles interesting. Likewise, his alternately carefree and introspective turns are never awkward or inhibit the pace of the book, which is brisk. There is violence, but seen from Daniel’s perspective, it becomes darkly humorous rather than off-putting; it’s easy to get caught up in Daniel’s brazen actions and wonder what crazy thing he will do next as he veers from avenging angel to junk food gourmand while trying to make the most of things before the next *Kick* that tells him his host is repossessing his ride.