Member Reviews

"Touched" by Walter Mosley is a poignant exploration of love, loss, and redemption set against the backdrop of post-9/11 New York City. Mosley's storytelling prowess shines as he intricately weaves together the lives of his characters, each grappling with their own demons and desires. The novel is a gripping tale that lingers in the mind.

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This book is not one of my favorite Walter Mosley's books, but in all fairness, I do not have a love for Sci-Fi. I have pushed myself to read more genres that I do not appreciate.

The main character, Marty/Martin Just wakes up after what seems to have been a century or so. Initially thinking he is going crazy, he grabbles with how he feels and finds himself naked and unashamed, stepping out on his balcony. The problem is he is figuratively exposed and literally exposed which lands him incarcerated. Marty believes he is one of 107 here as a cure to the disease of humanity.

Marty is a typical Black man, husband, father, upstanding citizen, but Temple on the other hand is far from typical. The dichotomous relationship between the Marty and Temple is a great display of the gold pen and writing style of Mosley. Mosley conveys the struggle with humanity, the struggle as a Black man, the battles faced when your "other side" is in charge. The overarching themes of racism, classism, criminality, marriage, and infidelity (not really but the implication), were masterfully designed.

Though I thought about DNF-ing this read as I wasn't sure I understood Sci-Fi and its elements, but on the strength of and yielding to who the author is, I finished this book and glad I did.

Walter is a great, extraordinary gifted crime fiction author, and teacher of writing. He tackles challenging themes in unique ways in his books, showcasing his full range of excellence. If you're expecting Mosly's typical writing, you won't find it here. It's good, just different!

Thanks NetGalley, Grove Atlantic and Mr. Walter Mosley for allowing me the opportunity to read this ARC for my honest review. This is truly a 3 1/2 star, but there is no way to add a half of a star. Good read.

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A man wakes up with a new aggressive alter ego as the Cure. His wife readily goes along with this, because he is also turned into a sex machine. I don’t believe that this incoherent nonsense would have been published if Mosley had not written it. Fortunately, it is very short. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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Published by Atlantic Monthly Press on October 10, 2023

Walter Mosley has a laminated spot on my list of three favorite crime writers. When he strays from crime fiction, I’m less enthused about his novels. Touched is a horror novel. It’s based on a puzzling concept and isn’t nearly as compelling as his Easy Rawlins novels, but Mosley has mastered the art of holding a reader’s interest.

Martin Just is arrested for exposing himself, naked and erect, to a distant nine-year-old girl while he is standing on the second-floor deck of his home. His wife believes he was sleepwalking. Martin knows he was awake but isn’t sure how he came to be on the porch — or, for that matter, back on Earth.

Martin believes he is one of 107 people who were taken from Earth, trained for a millennium, and returned to change the Earth in 107 different ways. A pile of glowing blue rocks told him that mankind will reach a state of interstellar domination that will result in oblivion, ending all existence — not just on insignificant Earth, but throughout the entire universe. Martin woke up with that knowledge and with an erection. That’s a lot for Martin to process.

At least some of the 107 have made it their mission to wipe out humanity. Martin takes a different approach. Martin is the Cure. Or the Antibody. Sometimes he’s called the Antibody Cure. Martin wants to save the universe by fixing humanity rather than destroying it. This perspective puts him in conflict with the destroyers.

Maybe this was all a dream. Maybe Martin is delusional. But Martin believes that his newfound beliefs are true. The reader will agree with that conclusion before the novel reaches its midway point because the story is better if Martin is really waging a war against those of the 107 who want to end human life. Still, Martin’s explanation of his return to Earth and his newly split personality (he’s sharing his mind with a more toxic version of himself he calls Temple) never rises much above incoherent babble. In fact, the notion of choosing and training 107 humans to save the universe by fighting each other makes very little sense. At the very least, it needed further development.

Martin is Black. Before the battle with the destroyers begins, Martin needs to deal with the police, who decide to punish him for exposing himself on his deck. They place Martin in a cell with a large and brutal white supremacist who decides to strangle him. When Martin wakes up, he discovers that he is charged with murdering his cellmate. Fortunately, there were no witnesses and he likely acted in self-defense, so a judge releases him on bail. Mosley’s confidence in the judicial system is surprising, given that Mosley is far from naïve.

As Martin tries to explain all this to his wife, he realizes that he has physically changed. He feels younger. He’s stronger and more vigorous. Thanks to Temple, he’s become a sexual dynamo. That change pleases his wife (Martin feels a bit jealous that she loves shagging Temple) but she also seems to be changed by his touch. His wife takes steps to change his two children, making them soldiers in his war. This leads to a minor side story about his wife’s former (and possibly not so former) lover, but like most of the novel, that story is essentially thrown away before it develops into a significant subplot.

Mayhem ensues as Martin and his small army of reformed criminals (plus his family) battle a reincarnated killer, a demon dog, and a powerful member of the 107. That battle is essentially the heart of the novel, but it’s over too quickly to amount to much, given Temple’s ability as a warrior.

With no disrespect intended — again, I love Walter Mosley — the story seems a bit silly. Why did Mosley write it? I suppose Touched is a contemplation of death. Mosley’s point seems to be that death never defeats life. Everyone dies but in a universe that has existed for billions of years and will continue for billions more, the death of an individual life on a single planet isn’t all that significant. Death is “merely a prop for life, a yardstick that measured our advance.” It might be comforting to hold onto that thought until death prevents us from thinking. In any event, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the tiny specks we are in the vastness of space and time. A secondary lesson (and one familiar to fans of Mosley's work as a crime novelist) is that bullies can be defeated by showing them how “small and insignificant” they are.

Touched isn’t as substantial as Mosley’s crime fiction but it might appeal to horror fans who are satisfied with a bare-bones story. I recommend it to that limited audience with the caveat that readers looking for Mosley at his best are likely to be disappointed.

RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS

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The length is what I liked best about the latest offering from Walter Mosley. Touched is a science fiction novella where the main character seems to wake up from a bad dream but is quickly in a fight between life and death. Life and Death seem to be characters in the novella as well. I am not a huge science fiction reader so the workings of the plot may have gotten lost on me. I found myself losing focus of where and what was going on in the story. Since Mosley is one of the most prolific writers of current times, the writing gives many memorable lines.

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I'm on the edge because I appreciated the plot and the characters but I wasn't a huge fan of the world building.
Mosley is a master storyteller and kept me reading till the end.
Not a masterpiece but I think he could become an excellent sci-fi writer
3.5 upped to 4
Recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Walter Mosley's phenomenal writing comes through wonderfully in this. My only complaint is that I wish it were longer.

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Walter Mosley is most well known for his crime fiction; however, here he tackles big questions in a fever dream of a science fiction novella.

Martin Just wakes up after what may have been a centuries long sleep believing that he is at the heart of a cosmic struggle between life and death. I’m going to be completely honest and say that I did not fully understand what was happening here but I went along for the ride anyway. The passive main character/cog in the machine of some sort of superior intelligence of this book was, to me, reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, but where that explores themes of war, this is very much a commentary on racism and over policing/police brutality. Martin and his family are the only Black household in their L.A. neighborhood and he is pretty early on subjected to a brutal arrest and the fallout of that situation seems to be one of the only things connecting Martin to this reality.

While I’m not sure I “liked” this and I’m not sure I can widely recommend it, it is certainly a book that I think will stick with me and that I will return to over time because I think I’ll get more out of it on each reread.

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At the risk of torturing the cliche, I'd read Walter Mosley's shopping list. In this case, I might prefer it.

Harsh, huh?

A bit Stranger in a Strange Land, hints (to me) of N.K. Jemisin, this book was (to me) odd. I didn't love it.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the chance to read an ARC of this book.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced digital copy of this book.

This is one of the STRANGEST books I have ever read - and I just tore through it, because I HAD to find out what weird thing would happen next!!

Martin Just is a normal middle-class man, with a wife and two children, a good job and a nice house in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. Martin and his family are the only black residents of his neighborhood, but that is not usually a problem..

One morning, he wakes up from what felt like a thousand-year sleep to find everything is normal, except him. He feels as though he has been on a journey, being infused with knowledge that seems fantastic, he has been given the knowledge that humanity is a virus which is destined to destroy everything, the world and all the people in it. And he is the Cure.

But when he opens the curtains and steps out onto his balcony, the world looks normal But he soon learns that it is not normal, and never will be again.

This was written in one stream of consciousness story, with no breaks for chapters or hardly between events. It was a good read, but scary!!

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Walter Mosley's latest novella, Touched, is told by Martin Just, a man who awakes after a millennia-long sleep and reenters his previous life to a landscape of chaos where he is one of 107 chosen individuals who are to be the cure to the virus that is the human race. With his newfound dual personality, Martin (aka Temple) violently defends his family against the pure evil plaguing Hollywood Hills and beyond. This ambitious novella picks apart humanity’s willingness to categorize big ideas: life and death, good and evil, peaceful and violent.

Touched begins with Martin, a Black man living in the almost all-white neighborhood of Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, waking up to cops in his backyard yelling at him with guns raised. He has awoken nude on his balcony in the presence of a little girl and gets carted away to jail for indecent exposure. While in jail, he must confront a white supremacist who threatens his life and dignity and ends up in the web of legal affairs. While this storyline takes a backseat to the bigger plot, the themes of racial inequality and an unjust legal system continue throughout giving the reader philosophical inquiries to ponder beyond the last page.

This novella is a leap from Mosley’s most famous works, the gritty detective Easy Rawlins mystery series, but includes enough of his signature social, political, and economic commentaries to appease any of his fans.

While there are many big ideas and discussion points covered in this work, none of them were fully fleshed out.

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A pretty fun short read. Quick and snappy bit the full story is contained in a small package. Interesting concept and execution.

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What an odd book. I'm only aware of Walter Mosley as a crime writer (though I have yet to read any of his mysteries) so this book -- a dreamlike, bizarre work of ... science fiction, I guess? -- threw me for a loop. I see now that Mosley has written a number of speculative fiction novels and short stories. This book is reminiscent of Roger Zelazny at his most cosmic and abstract, and it was a little too floaty for me. But, I do love Roger Zelazny, and if that is emblematic of Mosley's science-fictional sensibilities I will have to go check out more of his stuff.

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Walter Mosley’s Touched is the question of life vs. death asked over the course of a novella-length fever-dream.

The first half of the book sets the premise: a wise-being wakes up in the life of a middle-aged affluent black man, imbued with a sense of purpose: being the cure to the problem of humanity. The initial presence of this being causes problems for Martin, the life it inhabits, as Martin gets into troubles caused by forces beyond him. For much of the beginning, I wondered how much credence should be given to Martin, if we were simply in the mind of a madman, and this is a question Martin himself wonders. Many of the antagonists of the first half were other people: the white supremacist jail mate, the vengeful prosecutor. I spent much of this part wondering where the story was going. I was impatient at times, but this impatience spurred me to turn the page.

The second half the book picks up with the appearance of Death itself. The suspension of belief required here as the action picks up reminds me of the world of Octavia Butler’s The Patternist, especially in the way Martin/Temple inspire legions of loyalty within those around him, passing strength through corporal fluids. The story becomes the exploration of a thought exercise: Death argues that “The sham of life represents a cancer on the natural order of being,” while Life claims that “[Life] was little more than the punctuation used to define the long story of life.” What is the natural state of the universe? This is the ultimate question upon which war is waged.

This novella is short, punchy, and feverish to read. There seems to be quite a fissure between the themes of the first half and the second, and the end leaves us with many untied loose ends. The premise exists not to be explained, but to set the scene for larger questions, though I do wonder about the beings who created Martin, the other 106 solutions, and why Martin. I recommend this for those who read for the questions, not the answers.

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Disclaimer: I didn’t get it but went along for the ride.

It started out great - an affluent Black man, Martin Just, wakes with an ethereal mission that is paramount to humanity’s continued existence. Immediately, he is thrown into the legal/penal system and discovers a latent (and rather violent) alter-ego, Temple, that surfaces when he’s threatened that further exacerbates the charges levied against him.

In this short novel, the scenarios that Martin finds himself thrown into come fast and furiously. As he knows his mission is life-affirming, he recognizes another who seemingly personifies death and their encounters dabble into modern day philosophical arguments, social injustices, along with commentary on the ‘isms’ - racism, classism, realism, etc. For me, those aspects were recognizable and relatable – other parts, not so much.

While I enjoyed this offering well enough, I know I missed a lot of what the author intended. Perhaps others can and will embrace it to appreciate all it entails.

Thanks to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for the opportunity to read in advance for an honest review.

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I have no idea what I just read. And, I'll admit it- I DNF because, well, I was lost and there's a lot of other things out there to read. Mosley writes a great crime novel but this, whatever this is, wasn't for me. He's packed so much, so so much, into a slim novel that pings and pongs around so much that I was never sure what was happening- is he mentally ill, is this sci-fi, and so on. There is a bit of classic Mosley commentary on police but the rest of it, nope. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Wasn't for me but I'm sure there's an audience for it.

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This was my first book by Mosley and from what I've seen of other reviews, it is pretty atypical compared to his other work. Mostly I felt like I was along for the ride with the main character and have just woken up from a fever dream myself!

I enjoyed this as a novella, but if it had been the length of a true novel I think I would have enjoyed it even more. Mosley tackled some big concepts here with life and death being the primary topics on display. This felt a little heavy at times but I really enjoyed Mosley's commentary on society and the way we as humans perceive things.

Check this one out if you like scifi, philosophical thinking, and weird fiction!

**Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the eARC of this unique title!!**

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Reading this novel was like I'm sitting in the lobby of the only downtown luxury hotel, in a second-tier city, like Cleveland or San Jose, and an internationally famous jazz pianist--I'm thinking Herbie Hancock, myself, but you may have another internationally famous jazz pianist in mind, and that's quite ok with me--happens to sit down at the baby grand over there, pushed into a corner, and he begins to riff, casually, magnificently, and seven minutes later he stands up and then walks on.

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Walter Mosley is an American treasure. Touched continues to remind us why.

Mosley twists the mystery genre and this sci-fi mystery is amazing. It deals with racial issues, and questions of humanity.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

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"Touched," the new novel by Walter Mosley, recognized mainly by his crime novels, is rooted in our fear for the future of humans and our planet. It finally happens: the different beings from "a vast range of planes and realities," as the author suggests, have decided that our species has entered the stage when our existence is no longer safe for the universe. Therefore, 107 people are chosen to become a cure, and Martin Just is one of those. Their methods are different and contradictory, but we follow the actions of just two individuals: Martin Just, a Black family man who symbolizes Life, and Waxman, who represents Death.

Another being, Temple, can sometimes overcome Martin. Temple is a much more potent, violent, and virile man. It's almost a schizophrenic transformation when Temple takes over Martin's body - with Martin's approval - when the real Martin is in danger. Martin, by nature, is a peaceful man, caring for his wife and two children. Still, he is prosecuted and imprisoned after one of his neighbors notices him standing naked on the balcony. In a primarily white, affluent Los Angeles neighborhood, the everyday life of a Black family is not easy, even in regular times, not just when Death is on the loose and we see zombies, a mysterious moth, and a dog who is worse than the Hound of the Baskervilles.

The novel's language demonstrates that we deal with the writer who knows his art. It's atmospheric, with beautiful sentences like "he didn't have so much as a paper bag for luggage." Even though science fiction thriller is not a genre I read frequently, I was impressed, especially by the insightful, philosophical conclusion that makes Life conquer Death. As Martin states at the novel's end, "Death was little more than the punctuation used to define the long story of Life."

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