Joy ride, or freaky, creepy carnival ride: come along.
Daniel Jenkins repeatedly returns to earth in human form to atone for his sins and deliver some good old-fashioned, oh, so gratifying, vigilante justice. Fans of Kick (The Jenkins Cycle Book 1) know Dan committed suicide while in college, bleeding all over the bedding of the girl who’d jilted him. Horrors! What in the world could entice me to spend a whole novel in the point of view of a thoughtless, self-pitying loser like Dan? Does the writer even live who could interest me in this guy’s miserable hereafter? Yes, yes, and yes again.
Alas, poor Dan. He comprehends the magnitude of his stupid act of suicide. His guilt is so stupendous, he somehow finds himself entering the body of a living human man. What happens to the guy’s soul while Dan occupies his “ride,” we don’t know, and we don’t need to worry about that yet. Most of these guys end up dead, thanks to Dan, who somehow manages to occupy the body of a bad guy, a seriously, horribly bad guy who deserves to die immediately. And should have died before he had a chance to ruin so many other lives. From the opening scene of “Kick,” I was hooked on Dan. He’s become so thoughtful in the lonely hours of the hereafter, he even thinks to tighten a plastic bag around his head before holding a gun to it and blowing his brains out. Well, not his, as in Dan’s, but his, as in whatever smarmy criminal was occupying this now-dead body.
If I make this sound way too complicated, trust me, it’s easy to follow in the novel. Monk is methodical in delivering the right amount of information when we need it, but never resorting to the dreaded “info-dump” of the novice author. With wit and humor, irony, one surprise after another, flying bullets, innocents to save, donuts to devour and food, food, food, Dan reminds us of how much fun it is to be human, and how great it is just to eat in front of a big-screen TV.
Riding along with Dan is living out a dream. What if we had only a few weeks to live–to feast on all our favorite foods, never having to choke down lima beans or broccoli in order to prolong our lives? Never having to consider cholesterol, diabetes or weight gain?
Too many “rides” in a row like that might get old (might! might!), but Dan never has time to be bored. The body he’s in keeps getting phone calls or visits from other bad guys. Somehow he has to get his fill of pizza before dispatching the baddies. And he has to finish with the vigilante justice before the first, second and third warning kick that he’s about to be evicted from the body he’s riding around in. Now that’s pressure. So much unfinished business to wrap up before he makes sure he leaves behind a dead body, not a criminal still alive and on the prowl.
Do I sound smitten with this premise? Well, I am.
Book One held a surprise when the final ride happens to be a nice guy, and Dan has to work heroically to keep Nate alive after Dan’s ride is over. It occurs to Dan that in his next incarnation, he should look up Nate and ask him what it was like during the weeks Dan was occupying Nate’s body. I had looked forward to finding out in Book Two, but Dan is much too busy dealing with a violent novelist and his snuff-film making cohorts, then with a house full of pedo–
But you don’t want to hear it from me. You want to read it all for yourself.
And I hope for Book Three to come out soon. Nate, I want to know if you remember anything of those three weeks when Dan Jenkins was in your body, posing as you, eating your food, watching your TV, enjoying your big house and car. And helping to get you out of that crazy, stupid mess you got yourself into.
I also want to see Dan achieve whatever nirvana will release him from this cycle. Then again, as long as Dan is able to come back and eat junk food for a few weeks, maybe he’ll never tire of the empty stretches in the great wherever. Maybe he’ll meet the Great Whomever.
This is the most fun, gratifying, creepy, and satisfying fiction I’ve read in a long time. Plot holes don’t matter. I’m along for the ride. Whether it’s a joy ride or a freaky carnival ride, Dan has me hooked and wanting more.
p.s. Take a close look at the cover of “Kick.” Twisted! (Love it!) The designer is someone named “Damon” of “damonza.com“.