Ricky’s Hand by David Quantick

August 15, 2022

Ricky Smart is a nobody, a Miami Beach paparazzo who lives in a cheap apartment and scrapes a living snapping celebs. One day Ricky wakes up, and realises there’s something wrong with his hand. It’s not his hand. In fact, it’s someone else’s hand. How does he know it’s not his? Because it looks different, it feels different and – perhaps the biggest clue– it has a four-letter word tattooed across the knuckles.

Then a week later, his other hand changes. A few days after that, Ricky gets a new arm…

Ricky is losing his mind as well as his body parts, but he has to eat and pay rent so he manages to get things together enough to pursue his seedy paparazzi career. He’s after candid shots of pop sensation and local girl Scala Jaq, who’s staying in town. He trails Scala, who has a secret of her own, and to his surprise and shock comes across her at a support group for people with an unusual condition, led by an overly enthusiastic guy called Don. Scala and Ricky team up when they begin to suspect Don, who tells them he’s a time-travelling policeman with an interest in Ricky’s problem.

This week’s review is Ricky’s Hand by David Quantick. Strap yourselves in folks. Things are going to get weird.

Ricky is a downbeat, mildly sleazy soul. I guess it comes with the territory when your job is essentially celebrity stalking. It’s tough to maintain the moral high ground. I’ll admit I felt a little sorry for Ricky. When we first meet him, he has hit rock bottom in life and is doing whatever it takes to get by. As soon as anyone discovers his profession, Ricky is viewed with barely veiled contempt and obvious distrust. Understandably, this has made Ricky quite self-motivated. He feels he can only rely on himself. If people won’t trust him then he won’t trust anyone else. Ricky has developed an acerbic, spiky persona. He continually pushes outwards, terrified of connecting with anyone. Of course, this means that Ricky can’t keep his mouth shut; he has a snarky attitude that all but ensures he is going to get a beating at some point or another.  As his “condition” escalates, Ricky finds himself in the unusual position of needing help from others.

Scala Jaq exists at the opposite end of the societal scale. She has everything she could want – fame, wealth and a manager who will literally do anything to protect his investment. Like Ricky though, she lives a solitary existence. No-one can understand what it is like to live in the spotlight twenty-four-seven.

Circumstance drives these two disparate souls together. When various body parts start to change overnight both find themselves asking the same question “what can I do?” The answer is easy, do what every other red-blooded American would do, join a self-help group. That’s the point where things take an even weirder turn.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away. Half the fun of this novel is trying to guess where things are going to go next. That’s where Ricky’s Hand excels, it demands your attention. The narrative mashes together the best of science fiction and crime to create a deliciously unique novel. The premise says it all really. You have to admit that random people having random body parts replaced for no apparent reason is pretty weird. Fortunately, David Quantick is on hand* to guide us. I was a big fan of his last novel, Night Train. The bastard son of Snowpiercer and Cube was a great deal of fun. Even now I am still reeling from the scene with the soup. There is little doubt that with Quantick we are in a safe pair of hands**. When it comes to all things odd he has got us covered.

There is some darker than dark comedy infused throughout this story. Ricky tries to compensate for his many failings by portraying himself as a cocky son of a bitch. Unsurprisingly, it almost never works but for an outsider looking in, it is funny.

If you are in the market for a cheeky little science fiction novel that is going to throw you a curveball or two, then you need look no further.

Ricky’s Hand is published by Titan Books and is available now.

My musical recommendation to accompany this novel is the soundtrack to Nightcrawler by James Newton Howard. Ricky Smart has an eerie twilight existence on the fringes of society so it seemed like a good fit.

*excuse the pun

**honestly this isn’t deliberate, I promise.

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