on 2 September 2002
Do you absolutely love that feeling that you have found an undiscovered gem? John Christopher is just such a writer, and a british one at that, a diamond in the rough. At first his writing seems ordinary and unimpressive, but within three pages you are hooked. The Possessors isn't the best of his books and deals with what is now an old idea - an alien being infecting and controlling people - but as the book progresses and the people staying in the snowbound holiday chalet in Switzerland start getting picked off one by one you can't help but listen to the howling of the wind outside, or look out the window to see if a face with dead eyes is staring back in at you. Draw the curtains, extinguish all the lights except one reading lamp and delight in this good old fashion chiller.
I’ve read a number of John Christopher’s works over the years; apart from the wonderful Tripod series of books, I have thoroughly enjoyed A Wrinkle in the Skin, and The Death of Grass. I was delighted to get hold of a copy of this book, The Possessors. First published in 1964 this book is, like all Christopher’s works, classic sci-fi. It’s about people and their reactions to circumstances beyond the norm, and the breakdown of individuals and society, and the ‘human’ response to ‘alien’ influences of whatever kind.
This book takes a great perspective on the story, with chapters being written from the perspective of an individual character in the story. As the cast of the story is small, this allows the reader to ‘see’ the action through the characters and emotional and logical responses of individuals who are being directly affected.
The story is set high in the Swiss mountains. After a prologue about “the Possessors” we move directly to Earth, where a group is gathered for a skiing holiday at a privately owned lodge. The two owners and their guests are the only characters in the book. When a tragic accident appears to befall one of the guests, they are all shocked and horrified. But a snowstorm has blocked them off from the outside world, and it may be several days before they can get assistance or make any contact with anybody else. And in the meantime, something doesn’t feel right about the guest’s death …
Classic, spooky, edge of the seat psychological stuff, this is a great read, and thoroughly recommended to anyone who enjoys Christopher’s works, or just likes classic sci-fi.
on 10 July 2012
Okay, so it's a well-worn scenario. Trapped (in this case by an avalanche) and facing something nasty which picks off the group one by one.
John Christopher has always been a favourite sci-fi author of mine and I think this book illustrates why. As the situation develops the realisation amongst the protagonists that something dangerous is unfolding lags tantalisingly behind the reality that the human race is truly under threat. Small talk, flirting, alcohol, disputes- all the minutiae of human interaction continue almost to the end and in the meantime the Possessors draw their plans to infect the rest.
I have two minor disappointments. First, the denouement is a slight fizzle-out. It could have been drawn right to the wire. The second is that I do seriously think that this book would work better if we were not told by the narrator about the origin of the Possessors, but were left to work it out for ourselves, in the way the characters trapped by the avalanche have to.
But an excellent read!
on 17 August 2014
I read this book as a teenager and was immediately hooked, love its old fashioned setting and even if the idea has been used a fair bit the book is paced well, beautifully written, great characters and there is a sense of fear and the possibility it might go wrong. I had empathy with the alien presence as well, its desperation for its species to survive informed all its action. I am rereading for the third time and recommend this and all his other books, I am definitely a fan.