Obsession, by Ramsey Campbell

Obsession, by Ramsey Campbell book coverGenre:  Horror
Publisher:  Samhain
Published: 1985
Reviewer Rating: four and a half stars
Reviewer:  Michael D. Griffiths

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Obsession by Ramsey Campbell is almost a mystery as much as a Horror novel, but it is certainly the latter with a sharp bullet. Ramsey sets up the scene, but does not walk you through what you should believe really happened. Both during and after the novel, he leaves the reader alone to find his or her own conclusions to what took place.

The novel begins with following the lives of four teenagers, Peter, Jimmy, Robin, and Steve. Each of them is suffering from a single issue they wished they could somehow solve and this is when Peter gets a message which says, “Whatever you most need, I do. The price is something you do not value and which you may regain.”

They all make a pact and each of their ‘wishes’ come true, although in some cases in a matter which is most unpleasant. Fast-forward to twenty-five years later and the four have remained in the same oceanside town, but have drifted away from each other as careers and relationships took the forefront of their lives.

Each of these four begin to suffer from ill strings of horrid luck. As these events build, their lives are thrown into shambles. Situations range from tragedies, to destroyed businesses, and in one case, head into a supernatural horror. Their paths begin to cross as Peter tries to gain their aid and convince them their time to pay up has hit them. Others find the idea silly, but this does not stop the continuation of disturbing events.

The mood remains dark and uncertain. Is all this random chance or is something more sinister at work and getting ready to ruin the rest of their lives? What will they pay, which they do not value and how can they regain it? Nothing makes sense since each thing they lose is valuable and one of the cornerstones of their lives.

Campbell’s novel is tightly woven and there in not much to wag a finger at here. If you like things laid out plainly and do not like left deciding what really happened at the end of a novel, this one could bug you. A few things remain unclear. Some of the characters also act a little passive as the world tramples them, but then again, they are normal folk and often that is what happens in the real world.

Upsides include the mixing of mystery and horror. Obsession is not super heavy in the horror department, but it has more than a few unsettling moments. Again, this is a great example of the, show me do not tell me, idea and I for one like it when an author makes you work as hard as the characters to figure out what is really going on. Another well done novel by Campbell.

Skinjumpers, by Michael D. Griffiths

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