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Review: The Possession- Michael Rutger

Genre: Thriller Published: Zaffre Publishing, July 2019

My Rating: 2/5 stars

"To outrun the monster, you don't have to be the fastest. Just the second slowest. You're my safety mechanism".

Earlier this year, I picked up a thriller from a bargain-bin at the bookstore, based on nothing but an intriguing synopsis. It ended up being one of the most thrilling supernatural thrillers I’ve read to date. That book was The Anomaly by Michael Rutger, so when I found out there was a sequel on the way, in the form of The Possession, I knew I had to give that one a try as well. Unfortunately, with this novel, Michael Rutger went from one of the biggest surprises of the year, to one of the biggest disappointments, as I really didn’t enjoy The Possession.

The Possession picks up after the events in the Grand Canyon, with the team looking for a new case for their web-documentary The Anomaly Files. They find just what they’re looking for in the mystery surrounding a small village where strange phenomena seem to pile up. From the mysterious walls that seem to appear and disappear randomly throughout the surrounding forest, to a girl who went missing only to return under equally puzzling circumstances… The team may (again) have gotten in over their heads.

I enjoyed the story, the setting and the suspense of The Possession just fine. Both the setting and the plot are nothing we haven’t seen before, but are executed well and make for quite the page turner. I talked about Michael Rutgers knack for “cinematic writing” in my review of The Anomaly, and the same certainly holds true for its sequel as well. The best about this sequel for me was the return to Nolan and his team, as I grew to love them and their witty, sarcastic banter over the course of the these books. The return of these characters, unfortunately also relates my disappointment with the novel:

This book works just fine on its own. It just doesn’t work as a sequel to The Anomaly. Beware minor spoilers for The Anomaly from this point on.

Nolan and his team suffered horrific traumas during the events in the Grand Canyon. They went through terror beyond belief (both individually as well as as a group), they encountered things they didn’t even know could exist, and even lost friends in the caves. Experiences like that are bound to have repercussions, yet for these characters, they have none. In fact, The Possession ignores everything that happened before it, thereby trivializing the entirety of its predecessor in the process. Not only was there no sign of PTSD/grief/etc., all of the characters started off in the exact same place they were at the start of The Anomaly, undoing all the character growth since then. This made the two feel very incongruent. The same problem extends to the worldbuilding. Both novels are rooted in the real world, with an added supernatural element. However, these supernatural elements are so different between the two novels, that it doesn’t feel like they belong in the same worldbuilding. Whilst The Anomaly’s mystery had a core in science-fiction and biology, The Possession has the same characters encounter straight up magic and ghosts. The Anomaly was more of an “Indiana-Jones-Meets-X-files”, where The Possession is more like “The-Craft-meets-The-Mist”… You might be able to see how those two feel mismatched in the same universe… Although I was quite disappointed in The Possession, I still really enjoy the style of these stories and their witty cast, and I hope we’ll return to them in a third entry in the series. My only wish is that this becomes a series, rather than a set of separate-feeling novels that happen to share a cast…

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