The Tourist by Clare London
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Tourist is a unique premise and an interesting idea. A long dead entity can “hop” into a person’s body and heighten their sexual desires and appetites. The ghost gets the feeling of pleasure and the host body gets some uninhibited sex. Unfortunately the inherent disconnect with the concept means that you’re never sure whose emotions and thoughts are being displayed. Are they the ghost or the host’s? Additionally there are too many complications that just aren’t fleshed out very clearly to make this a wholly successful story. It is however unique and different and worth reading for that.
The story begins with the tourist, named Ace, jumping into a new body and having some pretty hot shower sex with the body’s partner. The reader soon learns that Ace is “visting” Dan. This means Ace’s ghostly energy or body or whatever it is rests temporarily in Dan. The narration then blends Ace’s thoughts with Dan’s so it’s unclear who is the one telling the story. The action is told rather than shown partly out of necessity. Ace tells the reader the things he learns about Dan but the emotions, thoughts, and experiences are jumbled and it’s confusing who exactly is thinking what and when. Ace then jumps out of Dan about halfway through and into Ricky, Dan’s younger lover, which causes even more confusion as Ricky has some very deep issues.
The novella is really about Dan and Ricky as they fight through their own insecurities and worries and realize the love they have for each other. It’s supposed to give them a happy ending, with a side trip into Ricky’s abusive ex-boyfriend. This isn’t a bad premise and the introduction of a ghost/visitor to help all the characters brings an interesting element. It’s not exactly paranormal but it adds some humor and whimsy to the story. This actually works pretty well as when Ace is obviously speaking, like when he talks about how he died, the narrator has a very distinctive voice and charm. Ace is likable, sympathetic and entertaining. It’s only when his narration blends with the other characters that it becomes jumbled.
This is the biggest weakness of the story. It’s very difficult to tell who is thinking what when Ace is inside a body. When Ricky or Dan are fretting about their insecurities and fears, it’s nearly impossible to know if that’s Ace’s interpretation, the reality of the situation, or a combination of the two presented to the reader. Also the perspective shifts sometimes from what is clearly Ace speaking to clearly another person and then a vague narrator. This keeps you from connecting significantly with any character and muddles the complexity the story is striving for.
On the plus side the writing is smooth and polished, making the pages fly by. It’s a short novella, easy to read in one sitting and keeps your attention from beginning to end. There’re a couple hot sex scenes to add spice without feeling repetitive or overwhelming and the bit with the ex-boyfriend may be predictable but the ghost addition makes it more interesting; much like the story itself. While the concept is good I do think it needs more fleshing out and clarity to really be successful. It is still engaging and fun to read as it’s something different and a unique idea.