I recently read T.E.D. Klein’s The Ceremonies, a horror novel that centers around a college instructor who is preparing a course on horror fiction. I have already read and reviewed most of the books that he discusses, but there were a few he mentioned that I had never heard of. This book, John Christopher’s The Possessors, was one of them.
The Possessors – John Christopher
Avon – 1966 (Originally published 1964)
An alien lifeform kills a child and possesses his body at a mountain cabin in Switzerland. The kid then starts possessing all of the other guests at the cabin. An infected person only has to touch your skin for a few minutes to pass on the infection. I’m using infection and possession in the same way here. You get fingered and turn into a cold alien.
This is basically Night of the Living Dead but with zombies that touch you up instead of eating you. It was published 3 years before that movie came out too, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Romero read this before shooting his film. The plot of The Possessors is pretty straightforward, and the story is predictable to an extent, but that didn’t bother me too much. It was the long-windedness of the writing that let me down.
There’s so much character building, and so little of it matters to the story. Maybe it’s supposed to help create tension, but it bored me. There’s an alcoholic character who is clearly destined to get possessed. She’s obviously a weak link who will jeopardize everything for everyone, and we know she’s going to get done away with. Despite this, Christopher provides details about her summer holidays as a girl and the names and fates of all her brothers and sisters and cousins and pets.
I think this is generally classified as science fiction rather than horror. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t heard of it. It’s quite similar to The Body Snatchers in both its premise and awkward classification status.
The Possessors wasn’t great. It’s a decent idea, but the pacing is just too slow. I think it would have been a much more exciting read if it were 30 pages shorter.