By J. T. Nicholas

Re-Coil, a novel by J. T. Nicholas
Book details

Death is not something that people like to think about, but without death how are we to live? Within all of us in the unspoken knowledge that one day we will die. For this reason, we venture forth, live, breath, love and laugh. Some of us more than others, but without death would we even bother? We can love another day; laughs can happen next year. In the universe of Re-Coil by J.T. Nicholas even the poorest do not have to die. We occupy bodies known as Coils, once we shuffle off that mortal shell, another is provided, and our conscience transferred. Until the day that no available Coil is forthcoming. In a world in which life has become a given, how do you face death?

Carter Langston has lived through several Coils moving from occupation to occupation. He currently works on a skeleton crewed salvage vessel. Along with three colleagues he travels into deep space to find abandoned ships and recover anything of worth. On one such mission he discovers more than he should, and his coil is destroyed. Waking up weeks later in a new body, Langston discovers that he almost did not make it into his new shell. Someone or something is after him. He saw something that he can no longer remember. Can Langston and the remaining crew survive long enough to discover the truth and save themselves?

Action and science fiction go together like hand in glove, but more so on screen than on paper. Action in books can be a little wearing as you feel detached from events. Add to this the issue of apparent immortality and why should we care that Langston’s latest coil is destroyed? Two reasons; characterisation and intelligent plotting. Nicholas has used the concept of immortality to his advantage. Death strikes fear into us all, but it must be even more striking to those who believed they could never die.

By removing the safety net of a new Coil, Nicholas has put Langston into an alien situation. Not only could this be the last body that he ever has, but someone is openly trying to make sure he dies. Having Langston running about the place on the edge of death would work, but the book is enhanced by the introduction of his former crewmate Shay. This computer expert is also on the run; usually a woman, Shay has been transferred into the body of a man. It is the relationship between these two characters that give the action sequences meaning. You want this budding relationship to develop and to do this requires their survival.

At the heart of the book are various pumping action sequences. There is a nice rhythm to the book that allows the characters to develop and breath, but there is always an action set piece around the corner. The final part of the book is an intense space battle that will have lovers of action science fiction turning the pages at speed. A little of the developmental aspects of the book are lost during the latter of the book, but Nicholas earns the reader’s trust by developing so much earlier. By now you are very invested in the characters of Langston and Shay. Perhaps a few of you will also have a special place for a certain corporate assassin too.

I would class Re-Coil as an action book that develops the relational links to make you invested in every scene. There is also more though. To add flavour to the sauce, Nicholas explores the concepts of gender, immortality and body dysmorphia. None of these aspects are at the fore of the tale, but really help to flesh out the world and characters. There is a wonderful sense of fluidity to modern science fiction and Re-Coil is in this vanguard.  

Re-Coil is a novel that could have fallen over so easily. Immortality is not entertaining, just as anyone who has been forced to watch Indiana Jones get nuked in a fridge knows. Action without context can also be dull. Nicholas sidesteps both these by using the loss of immortality to his advantage and developing his characters. Re-Coil is a full throttle science fiction novel with heart and stonking action.

Written on 2nd March 2020 by .

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