“The Possession” is a hard book to review. I just want to say that up top.
For the first half, “The Possession” feels like a mash-up of “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Dark Half,” and “Child’s Play.” It’s clunky and hard to follow, with characters and time-frames moving around enough to give you whiplash.
For example, we’ve seen that on Date X, Y happened to Character Z. Period. Then, suddenly, we’re back at Date X-2, and Z is fine, because Y hasn’t happened yet. Get it?
I’m sorry to use algebra in a book review, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Also, at Date X-2, suddenly Z has a kid of whom there was no mention during the lead up to Date X. Just to complicate it more.
The first half, maybe two-thirds of “The Possession” were often difficult to follow, as I said, because it wasn’t always clear where we were or why we were there. Most novels who slap us around timeframes will have a page saying, “May, 2001,” so that we can put this section of the story in its proper context. Like, “Oh! We’re going back five years and change, because the previous chapter was `November, 2006.’”
(When I was in broadcast advertising, we called this “idiot-proofing.” Don’t assume the listener will be able to find “19993 U.S. 19 N.” Rather, say “On U.S. 19 North a block past Algebra Ford.” Keep the simple but crucial things as simple as possible.)
That’s what bothered me. Also, any time somebody ate a meal, it developed into gourmet-speak. The author is trained as an executive chef—which explains the vast, no doubt legitimate detail—but I don’t think we need a whole paragraph for each meal. Seriously, everything after “White Alaskan Salmon” is lovingly written overkill, perhaps only to me. “They ate fish and drank wine. After dinner, they went to a square dance and murdered people.”
Then around the halfway or two-thirds mark, “The Possession” really hit its stride. It’s like driving through Atlanta at rush-hour, then suddenly, you’re on wide-open I-75 South, hauling ass, unimpeded.
This is when the story gets really good. First off, we are able to contextualize some of the earlier information that didn’t seem to advance the plot on the first read-through. Things start happening, and “The Possession” starts eliciting shivers. This was the point where I couldn’t put the book down. It got that good—double-A ball to the major leagues. THAT good.
The story concerns the most popular writer on earth, who develops writer’s block, and finds he can write again, but only if he performs an evil task. His evil tasks are bad enough, but they turn out to be part of a much larger, much more evil happening. The idea of fate comes into play, with characters helpless to fight off their destinies.
“The Possession” was so enthralling by the end that I can’t wait to read the trilogy’s second book.
One technical note: there were some formatting errors that made for challenging reading on my Kindle, but I imagine those will be fixed—I received a review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.
I’m giving “The Possession” three stars. Read it this way: the first half is a two, and the second half is a solid four. There was that much dichotomy between the two parts. Here’s hoping the second book continues “The Possession’s” late momentum. Then we’ll be cooking with gas.
Recommended, with the above caveats