A Touch of Death – A Glimpse of What’s to Come?
Black Mirror meets the future in A Touch of Death, written by Rebecca Crunden. I’ll be honest, dystopians aren’t usually what I gravitate towards. There’s just something about the futuristic feel to them, the gloom and doom, the downfall of societies, that mostly stirs my anxieties instead of offers me escape. Like, we are just a handful of natural disasters away from those terrifying dystopian nightmares becoming reality, and something about that thought doesn’t sit right with me. However, when Rebecca sent me a copy of her book, she totally grabbed my curiosity and I just had to dive into this series.
The book follows the perspective of Catherine Taenia in a futuristic world, as she gets tangled up with a notorious criminal, Nate Anteros. The book starts out with Catherine and Nate on the run, escaping a fight. We’re given the smallest of insights into both of their characters, and we mostly realize they argue quite a bit; we’re also given hints that Nate is very familiar with the life of crime at this point. Catherine hates that about him. Seeking refuge from a storm, they stay the night in an abandoned building. Catherine accidentally steps on a jar of something, and while Nate is cleaning up her cut, he also cuts himself. As they continue on to meet up with Nate’s brother (who happens to be Catherine’s complement — aka “husband”), both of them start to feel ill, Nate more considerably. Only after they meet up with Thom do they realize something is horribly wrong — neither one of them can touch Thom without their skinning burning and blistering, and they only can touch each other without feeling anything. They also find out that their touch heals one another. Things spiral quickly out of control as they try to find out what is wrong with them, and soon Catherine and Nate are forced to go on the run when Thom is killed after he tried to break into the lab to find out information on this mystery disease.
The rest of the story follows Catherine and Nate as they flee the authorities, but Nate continues to get more and more sick from whatever disease infected him and Catherine. Catherine’s touch eases his pain and seems to briefly heal him. Soon they are not only on the run from the Crown and Council, but they are also desperately trying to find out why Nate is so sick before he dies. Personally, I didn’t connect with either main character at first, but I did find Nate more interesting than Catherine… UNTIL the end. She just seemed so sheltered and willfully ignorant at the beginning… aren’t we all, though? I found Nate’s desire to bring change and fight against the Crown and Council inspiring. I feel like many people start out like Catherine: against change of any sort, accepting, content in their ways without realizing how privileged they are. It wasn’t until she was forced to rough it with Nate that she began to see the state of the starving people, and she began to realize her comfortable reality wasn’t the same for the rest of the nation. Once Catherine realized this and she grew more inspired to fight like Nate, I found out that I liked her more and more. I think that was the point of her character, to make us look inward upon our own privileges. It’s easy to be content, to not question… ignorance is bliss, as the saying goes. It is infinitely harder to know the truth, and it’s even harder to DO something about it. Nate grew up privileged as well, but he was able to recognize it from a young age.
Not going to lie, I did find this story a bit difficult to get into at first. I wanted more description, deeper characters, and more of a twisting plot, but I do think the lack of all of these things in the beginning really played into the Black Mirror vibes I got. You’re just thrown into the story, without much background, and you have to infer quite a bit about the setting as you go along. I had so many questions that didn’t quite get answered; what exactly is a mutant? What do they look like? When will we get to meet a mutant? What do each of these cities look like? However, and this is a big however, I felt like there was a HUGE energy shift about three quarters in to the book that suddenly came out of nowhere. I’ve mentioned before that patience evades me while reading, and this was the perfect example of why I just need to sit tight and hold on until the end. Catherine and Nate’s journey had gone predictably throughout the story, but the ending gave me the massive plot twist I had been waiting for… and I was so stoked to see it. The stakes had suddenly risen, and Catherine became much more likable as she began to fight for the same change Nate had fought for his whole life.
While the characters and story grew on me, I instantly loved the way this story made you question our current societies and social privileges. I found a lot of parallels to our world, and a lot circumstances that you could easily envision happening today. Some dystopians seem far fetched. A Touch of Death is a dystopian, but it’s a very REAL story… so much of what happened in this book seemed palpable, within the grasp of our future. I’m hoping that some of my questions get answered as I continue on with the story, and I’m so curious to see how Catherine moves forward to save Nate and her new friends. I can’t wait to learn more about how they will work together to take down the rich and save the people suffering from famine in their country. Hey, maybe I’ll even take notes… like I said above, we’re all only a few disasters away from this life…