Audiobook Review: The Possession by Michael Rutger
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Anomaly Files
Publisher: Hachette Audio (July 23, 2019)
Length: 10 hrs and 38 mins
Narrator: Wayne Pyle
With the tease of ghostly possession as its premise, I thought this follow-up to The Anomaly would provide a creepier experience. But in fact, what we get is a more mysterious than scary scenario involving an isolated small town, its curious network of low stone walls that twist and turn across its wooded landscape, and a missing teenager. While The Possession lacks a lot of the intensity and body horror that made the first book such a chilling read, it did have its moments.
Also, in case you’re wondering, The Possession can be read as a standalone. Very few references are made to The Anomaly even though this book takes place not long after those events, following protagonist Nolan Moore and his team as they investigate another possible lead for their YouTube documentary series, The Anomaly Files. Of course, one major change we see in this novel is the addition of Kristy, Nolan’s ex-wife, who gains a prominent voice as a POV character. The story actually opens with her arrival in Birchlake, a quaint little village nestled in the hills of northern California. A journalist working on a piece about bullying, Kristy has come searching for more information on the disappearance of 14-year-old Alaina Hixon, whose social media accounts show signs that the girl may have a victim of harassment. One of her photos on Instagram has several comments calling her a witch, including a particularly threatening one telling Alaina that it was time for her to join her mother, who died in a car accident not too long ago.
But to Kristy’s frustration, her questions around town seem to lead nowhere, and worse, strange things suddenly start happening around her. Queue Nolan and The Anomaly Files crew, who come to Birchlake hoping to find an interesting angle to revive the falling ratings of their show, and the miles of mysterious stone walls in the region appear to fit the bill. For one thing, their unknown origins are certain to spawn some wild theories and speculation, and for another, at least this assignment should be a lot less deadly than their last one—or so they thought.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t find The Possession to be as good as The Anomaly, but to be fair, the first book had a lot going for it that this sequel didn’t, such as the claustrophobia of being below ground, a gruesome infection that can tear your body apart, or monsters in the dark that can strike at any second. Instead, what we have here is a more mundane scenario. After all, as far as mystery and thriller premises go, there’s certainly no shortage of small-town settings or missing person cases when it comes to this genre. In fact, the paranormal elements of the story did not emerge until much later, and the middle sections of the book were also plagued by several lulls which I thought made The Possession a lot slower and a lot less exciting and frightening.
So, if you’re going into this one expecting a horror thrill ride, like in The Anomaly, I think you’ll be disappointed. There’s not much here that would invoke the kind of visceral response and bone-deep fear I got from the first book. Instead, I found the tone of The Possession to be quite different in that it places more emphasis on the atmosphere of intrigue and mystery, and the vibes you get are more unsettling and confusing than outright scary.
I also wasn’t sure what to make of the extra POVs in this book. Aside from Kristy, we get bits of the story from a few additional perspectives, making Nolan’s role in this feel far less important. I didn’t feel there was sufficient development into his character, mainly because we spent the bulk of the time with Kristy, whose voice wasn’t as engaging, and in truth, I felt a little annoyed that we switched tack in this book to focus so much on her.
Still, things picked up in the second half. Not coincidentally, this was also when more of the speculative elements came into play. Admittedly, the story takes a baffling turn and becomes a lot more complicated at this point, but this was one of those rare cases where I thought the ambiguity actually helped. Not everything needs to be explained, and I felt that the vagueness added a dash of intrigue to the ending, though I know it’s probably not going to work for everyone.
Bottom line, if you enjoyed The Anomaly, you definitely owe it to yourself to give The Possession a try, keeping in mind the tone won’t be the same, and you also have a much less scary plot and setting. But if you don’t mind the change of pace, this could be well worth your time.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Anomaly (Book 1)