Alternative Fiction: Husk

Final book in my reading trilogy – Husk by J. Kent Messum. An utterly brilliant concept, a very dark, rather funny read

Husk – J. Kent Messum


Husk explores the fascinating premise of procuring life after death by those who can afford to live post mortem. Set in a near future New York, husking refers to the illegal practice of pimping out the bodies of the living to wealthy deceased 1 percenters, enabled to remain in circulation thanks to advances in future technology.

The protagonist Rhodes works for a company that routinely hires his body out to the deceased. He quickly descends into his own personal hell of skewed perception and the nightmarish consequences of bodily take over by increasingly shady characters. Desperate to take control back and recover a sense of self, he begins to trace the activities of his body when under rental which leads to a horrific realisation about the trade he’s chosen to immerse himself and deeds he himself may have participated in while under the control of his renter.

This is an entertaining read taking very real current issues such as the Occupy movement, developments in technology that may not be entirely ethical and the mass underemployment of highly educated young workforces, twisting them into the narrative while pondering the ethics of illegal ‘husking’ – pimping the flesh quite literally.

Husk is not the first book to suggest that human consciousness could be uploaded into virtual existence post mortem -Tad Williams’ excellent Otherland series being a case in point. However, this is a short, sharp take on the idea which takes the virtual consciousness a step further by uploading in into willing human vessels. Very well written, a tad horrific (self enucleation anyone?) and with the occasional fruity line thrown in, this is adult horror highly recommended to anyone who likes their dystopian sci-fi fast, grim and darkly humorous.  However, it does step quite close to the edge in some scenes, and is not for those who dislike sadism.

The book has been optioned for television by Warp Films, producers of This is England 90 for Channel 4. Can’t wait to see what they do with it. Gemma Chan for Ryoko please!


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