Title: Jesus Kid
Author: Kayleigh Sky
Publisher: Kiss Drunk Books
Release Date: December 4, 2017
Page Count: 426
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.80 stars out of 5
Thirty years ago, an asteroid struck the Earth. Now killer plants hunt the last surviving humans…
Ori Scott is a young junkie running from his mother’s prophecy that he’d one day save the world from the killer plants. Her preaching made him a laughingstock and now he hides in his drugs. But he can’t hide the change in his veins. They are turning green, and the prophecy is dragging him into a dark struggle between invisible forces. Set up on bogus drug charges, Ori is taken to a secret facility where he becomes a test subject in experiments to discover an antidote to the alien plant’s sting.
Jack Doll is a cop with a vendetta against the plants that killed his best friend. All he has in the world now is his old friend’s lover, Rive. Together they form an unbreakable bond—or so he thought. Jack has never liked Rive’s friend, Ori, but he believes in Ori’s innocence and doesn’t understand Rive’s strange indifference to Ori’s conviction. Struggling with his suspicions, Jack can’t help digging into a mystery that draws him closer to Ori than ever before—and closer to somebody who has secrets to hide.
Alone and scared, Ori is grateful for Jack Doll’s friendship, and his longtime crush soon blossoms into love. But Ori has no plans to accept his fate. He wants to escape, and he doesn’t care if he takes the cure with him.
Please note: The book cover is new, but no changes have been made to the content.
When you open a dystopian novel, you know you’ll be bewildered, taken away from your usual reading comfort zone, stirred, distressed, sometimes shocked. Good dystopian novels grip you by your guts and shake you, making it impossible to put the book down because, you know, you need to find out what comes next and how it’ll all end. Most of the time, you’ll be pushed into an environment both familiar and completely unknown; quite often, you develop some sort of love-hate relationship with both novel and setting. That’s what makes the force and impact of a (good) dystopian novel. I have to admit I’m a huge fan and reckon I’ve read most of the best-known, best-written (and maybe goriest) books of this kind. As far as this book is concerned, I can’t seem to make up my mind, however.
In “Jesus Kind” we land in a post-cataclysmic world where our good old Earth as we know it has ceased to exist. An asteroid has crushed and killed off most of humanity and completely transformed landscapes, climates, and plants. The novel is set a generation after the catastrophe. We discover Wish City, a walled-in enclave and refuge for a few thousand survivors somewhere in the former USA (Nevada? Arizona?). On the surface, things haven’t changed a lot compared to the times before. People have jobs, people take busses or drive around in cars, people live in flats and houses, people marry, people have kids (although they have to win the right to procreate through a lottery). Alright, the former desert climate around Wish City has changed into semiarid-muggy-sizzling, with frequent, violent thunderstorms. Alright, the vegetation is not at the same, and you constantly run the danger of getting stung by one of the new “star plants”, the so-called booweeds, which can instantly spring up from the soil anywhere and anytime and kill those within reach of its tentacles. But by and by things look smooth. People even seem to be more tolerant (to be gay, bi, gay-curious, pan or whatever, is no big deal).
We follow police officer Jack Doll and his friend and colleague Rive on their usual patrols, we accompany them to their favourite bar, where they hang out with other cops. And we meet Ori Scott, a young, wily, ferociously independent junkie with an almost insatiable sexual appetite (I should say “former” junkie as he doesn’t do drugs throughout the whole book). He likes to shag, and shag he does, with whoever’s willing, provided he’s male. The prologue of the book has already introduced his mother, who was the only known person to be stung by a booweed plant and to survive. She was pregnant back then and always believed her miraculously preserved son would become someone special, the Saviour of mankind—hence the surname “Jesus Kid” she gave him. A surname Ori’s desperately been trying to shake off ever since. Ori is a friend of Rive’s and often hangs out with him and Jack. The latter is not overtly fond of the kid, whom he finds annoying. They are simply too different: Jack holds honour, duty, work in high esteem whereas Ori tries to live carelessly, with no thought for tomorrow or for other people. But then, Ori gets arrested for possession of illegal star plant seeds, a capital crime, and Jack discovers he just can’t accept Ori being condemned. It takes some time before he understands his feelings for the “kiddo” run deeper than he thought. But the hour of Ori’s planned execution is almost upon them; and even if Jack can save Ori, where would they flee to, what with the dangerous booweeds growing everywhere outside their walled-in city? And why does Ori’s crime look more and more like a set-up planned by the city’s mayor?
The plot with its twists, turns, and subplots—some of them really unexpected—as well as the setting are awesome and presented in a most convincing, coherent manner. Where the main characters are concerned, I liked Jack, a straight-forward no-nonsense guy, honest and sincere in his life (both professional and emotional), always eager to lend a helping hand, and always ready to change his point of view if the situation asks for it. Rive was more complex and harder to grasp, but still his ambiguities made for a very satisfying character. I confess I had a much harder time “getting” Ori and am still not entirely sure I did. He’s annoying, which is natural as he refuses to stop his restless motions for even a moment to think and ponder. Luckily, we get more insights into his mentality as we turn the pages, and little by little I started to grow quite fond of him (oddly, the evolution of my feelings reflected Jack’s, too).
The thing that makes me wonder whether I liked this book or not is the writing, however. Don’t get me wrong: Kayleigh Sky knows how to write, oh yes, she does. Her style is fluid and seemingly effortless most of the time. She certainly has a knack for poetic phrases, and some of her descriptions are of a breath-taking and rare beauty. But in some scenes, it was exactly that poetic, flowery style that made it difficult for me to grasp what was going on. Sometimes I had the impression I was reading a foreign language… well, yes, I grant you I did—I’m not a native speaker, after all; but you get what I mean, right? The words Sky used were surely chosen with great care and didn’t sound wrong or out of place, but they seemed to obscure the sense of a scene, a situation, a description rather than to reveal it. When you add Ori’s sometimes unexpected actions or reactions, you’ll understand why I had to re-read certain passages more than once in order to be sure I understood the scene. After a while, I found that a tad annoying—a pity as I really liked the rest. Anyway, it doesn’t matter if I liked the book or not, because when a reading experience is so intense as this one has been, I can only recommend the book and urge you to read it and form your own opinion.
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