“Husks are houses, clients are ghosts, and what transpires between us and them is a haunting."
Okay I’m baffled. I'm puzzled. I'm dumbfounded. I'm every other 'confusing' word you can find in that trusty dictionary of yours. To be quite honest, I'm not the type who'll jump off the back of a speeding 18-wheeler to read science fiction. Hell, I wouldn't even jump off a slow agonizing city bus to read it. But maaaan, I'm seriously scratching my head with this one. Why? Because after finishing this book, it's pretty evident that it hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves and it's a mystery why it hasn't... a real doozy. Maybe I'm just too blind to see why it hasn't. Or maybe this is one of those rare cases where the masses raved over this book in their prior lives and someone had the nerve to zap them all with one of those pesky neuralizers and now no one seems to remember their acclaim for it.
Whatever the case, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it...
In the far, far, far distant future (okay maybe not that far), the ability to skip death and have eternal life is just a digital session away. But here's the kicker: it's only reserved for people like Oprah... you know? the big ballers, the elite, the one-percenters. The kind of people who can literally wipe their asses with a wad of cash... lucky bastards.
After biting the dust, these folks have the privilege to have their consciousness uploaded within virtual worlds through advanced computer servers, algorithmic patterns, and genetic coding. It's all made possible by Solace Strategies, one of many companies who specialize in all things considered "post-mortem." And that's when husking comes into play where clients can take a ride on the wild side in the form of a Husk (a living breathing person they find attractive enough to rent). The amount of data being transferred per session is huge. It involves the use of two thin retractable cables, hard-lines, with the first cable plugging into a gold port and the second one having a syringe-like proboscis. The proboscis is then gently hooked up to a small digital interface surgically implanted under the skin behind a Husk's ear which is known as the "Ouija." When an audible crunch is heard through soft tissue, that signals a strong connection to the cortex enabling a smooth session for both Husk and client. Okay... did I lose you? Did this cause an eye roll? Well don't fret because the story doesn't get hung up on all this techie stuff. It's a good thing it didn't or else I would've ended up like this guy:
The husking business is illegal. It's dangerous, it's lucrative. But apparently, Keith Rhodes only managed to hear the last part because he's a Husk who's willing to do what's necessary for the almighty dollar (which is understandable because he's come from a broken home with the story weaving in and out of the narrative effortlessly to shed light on this). Sessions between Husk and client are not to exceed 72 hours as this can prove to be detrimental in brain activity for the Husk. But of course, there's one
asshole client who decides to play by his own rules and that's when shit gets real for Rhodes. He starts having weird hallucinations, nightmares, and disturbing flashbacks/visions. But what does it all really mean? It's taking a massive toll on his personal health, that's for sure. Soon he begins to question if the job is caked up for what it's made out to be. He inevitably wants out but getting out won't be that easy.
This was fast, edgy, and fun and dare I say it... original. While I found the narrative to be really entertaining, it got a little info-dumpy at times. The talk about greedy corporations, lab-grown meat and consumerism were a mere reflection of our society so I got a good kick out of that. Just wished it were cut down a bit. Just about all of the characters (if not all) were well-realized and their relationships felt authentic as well as their motives. A few sections felt borderline preachy but it was totally justifiable within the constraints of a certain character in the story and not the author just screaming on a soapbox. Totally enjoyed this, a perfect blend of psychological suspense, mystery, and... science fiction (which is really starting to grow on me).
And that ending... whoa. I need a cigarette and I don't even smoke.
4.5 Stars for Husk
I want to thank J. Kent Messum for generously sending this book to my front doorstep. It's now a resident of my black mainstays 5-shelf wood bookcase (gotta love walmart.. they have some killer deals). This book was also provided to me through Horror After Dark. For more reviews like this, go here.
Oh and word on the street is that this book has been optioned for a television series by Warp Films in the UK. Warp wants to base the first season on this story, and then expand it into more seasons. When it does, you'll find me right in the front of the tube with a big bucket of ice cream. And if that wasn't enough marketing for ya, check out Husk's book trailer here.