Jack Strong: A Story of Life after Life - Walter Mosley

Jack Strong

by Walter Mosley


Jack Strong awakens in a hotel room, not with no knowledge of his previous self, but with far too many memories of his previous selves.  While the composite being refers to himself by the masculine singular, his body and memory seem to be composed of pieces of other men and women; one of his eyes is blue, one brown; most of his hand is masculine and white, but one of his fingers seems dark and feminine.  Without understanding how he as Jack Strong came to be but with memories of the dead clamouring in his head, he decides to quiet the voices by completing some of the unfinished business in his newly unique manner.


Jack Strong is an odd little novella, rather more like an extended preview of a longer novel than a full story in its own right. I loved the general ideas; I’m a sucker for the idea of possession, especially possession by a multitude, and who doesn’t love a story of the dead coming back to complete some unfinished business? However, whilst the ideas had a lot of potential, I had the unsatisfied sense that none of them really came to fruition. Told in the first person by the eponymous Jack Strong, the story gives us pieces of the (mostly criminal) lives of the crowd in Strong’s head, and it hints slightly about how he came to be in his state, but it never actually completes the thought. Like many other science fiction tales that I have encountered, it deals with only the “what if” without considering the “why” or “how.” In all honesty, the (utterly unexplained) setup is so illogical that it simply isn’t something I’m willing to take on faith.

We know there’s a black van following him, but what on earth was the goal of all this? How was it done and why? And why would they allow their precious project to run around committing criminal acts? The fact that Mosley didn’t bother to explain even part of this didn’t precisely imbue me with confidence in his worldbuilding.

(show spoiler)

As always, Mosley’s writing is elegant and his dialogue gives a sense of the speakers’ voices and dialects; also as always, his plot deals heavily and thoughtfully with issues of race. Also as always, there is a pretty woman and a rather detailed sex scene. Considering how short the novella is, I would have preferred a little less time spent on the tetanic sex and a little more time on the actual plot and worldbuilding. Overall, while the story is written with Mosley’s usual panache, it left me with a dissatisfied sense of a story that bursts with potential, yet is not merely unfinished, but only barely begun.

I wonder if there will be a sequel.


 ~~I received this ebook through NetGalley from the publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, in exchange for my honest review.  ~~