Book Reviews

[Review] Husk by J. Kent Messum

[Review] Husk by J. Kent MessumHusk by J. Kent Messum
Published by Penguin Books, Limited on 2015-07-30
Genres: Dark Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thrillers & Suspense
Pages: 356
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon


For a lucky few, death is merely an inconvenience. With the help of technology the mind can survive long after a body has been laid to rest. This afterlife, however, is far from paradise...


Rhodes is a 'Husk'. It's an illegal, controversial and highly lucrative job - renting out control of his body and mind to the highest bidder. It's a sure way to gain a better life, but some clients go too far. Sometimes, he wakes up with scars.


Then the visions start - terrible sights that haunt his waking hours. They could be dreams, or they could be something far worse - they just might be memories...

“Husks are houses, clients are ghosts, and what transpires between us and them is a haunting.”

I’m baffled. I’m puzzled. I’m dumbfounded. I’m every other ‘confusing’ word you can find in that trusty dictionary of yours. To be quite honest, I’m not the type who’ll jump off the back of a speeding 18-wheeler to read science fiction. Hell, I wouldn’t even jump off a slow agonizing city bus to read it. But maaaan, I’m seriously scratching my head with this one. Why? Because after finishing this book, it’s pretty evident that it hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves and it’s a mystery why it hasn’t… a real doozy. Maybe I’m just too blind to see why it hasn’t. Or maybe this is one of those rare cases where the masses raved over this book in their prior lives and someone had the nerve to zap them all with one of those pesky neutralizers and now no one seems to remember their acclaim for it.


Whatever the case, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it…

In the far, far, far distant future (okay maybe not that far), the ability to skip death and have eternal life is just a digital session away. But here’s the kicker: it’s only reserved for people like Oprah… you know? the big ballers, the elite, the one-percenters. The kind of people who can literally wipe their asses with a wad of cash… lucky bastards.


After biting the dust, these folks have the privilege to have their consciousness uploaded within virtual worlds through advanced computer servers, algorithmic patterns, and genetic coding. It’s all made possible by Solace Strategies, one of many companies who specialize in all things considered “post-mortem.” And that’s when husking comes into play where clients can take a ride on the wild side in the form of a Husk (a living breathing person they find attractive enough to rent). The amount of data being transferred per session is huge. It involves the use of two thin retractable cables, hard-lines, with the first cable plugging into a gold port and the second one having a syringe-like proboscis. The proboscis is then gently hooked up to a small digital interface surgically implanted under the skin behind a Husk’s ear which is known as the “Ouija.” When an audible crunch is heard through soft tissue, that signals a strong connection to the cortex enabling a smooth session for both Husk and client. Okay… did I lose you? Did this cause an eye roll? Well don’t fret, because thankfully the story doesn’t get hung up on all this techie stuff. It’s a good thing it didn’t or else I would’ve ended up like this guy:

The husking business is illegal. It’s dangerous, it’s lucrative. But apparently, Keith Rhodes only managed to hear the last part because he’s a Husk who’s willing to do what’s necessary for the almighty dollar (which is understandable because he’s come from a broken home with the story weaving in and out of the narrative effortlessly to shed light on this). Sessions between Husk and client are not to exceed 72 hours as this can prove to be detrimental in brain activity for the Husk. But of course, there’s one asshole client who decides to play by his own rules and that’s when shit gets real for Rhodes. He starts having weird hallucinations, nightmares, and disturbing flashbacks/visions. But what does it all really mean? It’s taking a massive toll on his personal health, that’s for sure. Soon he begins to question if the job is caked up for what it’s made out to be. He inevitably wants out but getting out won’t be that easy.

This was fast, edgy, and fun and dare I say it… original. While I found the narrative to be really entertaining, it got a little info-dumpy at times. The talk about greedy corporations, lab-grown meat and consumerism were a mere reflection of our own society so I got a good kick out of that. Just wished it were cut down a bit. Just about all of the characters (if not all) were well-realized and their relationships felt authentic as well as their motives. A few sections felt borderline preachy but it was totally justifiable within the constraints of a certain character in the story and not the author just screaming on a soapbox.

And that ending… whoa. I need a cigarette and I don’t even smoke.

I want to thank J. Kent Messum for generously sending this book to my front doorstep. It’s now a resident of my black South Shore Smart Basics 4-Shelf bookcase (gotta love walmart.. they have some killer deals). This book was also provided to me through Horror After Dark. 

Oh and word on the street is that this book has been optioned for a television series by Warp Films in the UK. Warp wants to base the first season on this story, and then expand it into more seasons. When it does, you’ll find me right in front of the tube with a big bucket of ice cream. And if that wasn’t enough marketing for ya, check out Husk’s book trailer here.

About J. Kent Messum

J. Kent Messum is an author & speaker who always bets on the underdog. His first novel BAIT (August 2013, Penguin Books) won the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for ‘Best First Novel.’ His second novel HUSK (July 2015, Penguin Books) was recently optioned for an international TV series by Warp Films in the UK. He currently lives in Toronto with his wife, dog, and trio of cats.


I am an avid reader/reviewer and collector of books--primarily horror, supernatural, and supernatural-themed thrillers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *