by Joshua Sutton2 out of 5
Sarah Summers was normal once, but now she spends her nights plagued by dreams of her dead family. When a demon is sent to possess her, can Sarah fight back against it and overcome the evil that not only threatens her sanity, but humanity itself?
In a Mareyland asylum, demons and humans collide, breaking down walls between worlds.
I picked up a paperback copy at the UK Indie Lit Fest, and got to meet the author, which was pretty cool.
In Memory is a highly imaginative and ambitious story, following several people (and demons) as all hell breaks loose (literally).
I really liked the setting, and thought it was an original premise. Driven by the despair of losing a loved one, Marcus will go to any length to overturn the rules of this world and get her back. This includes starting an mental asylum, where he actually pushes his patients deeper into insanity, with the help of demonic possessions.
Sarah is one of his victims, but things do quite go to plan when her assigned demon starts to play by his own rules.
The demons are, well, murderous beasties. They are a blend of tradition and modern. The way they speak, act and their overall vibe is that of a modern person. I found it quite jarring at first, but quickly found it amusing. Let's face it, you're going to either love it or hate it, that these all-powerful demons sound like Bob-next-door.
What didn't work for me was the execution.
This is a short book of about 140 pages. It has 47 chapters (yes, 47 - most chapters are a page and half long), and each chapter jumps between narrator.
There are five narrators (or six? I can't remember if Dietrich gets the spotlight).
I know that the synopsis mentions Sarah Summers, but the story is shared equally with the other characters. This is really hard, as every other page you jump into someone else's head and have to remember their drive and history, which is patchy at best.
In those 140 pages, as well as trying to represent the characters; Sarah gets possessed, teams up with her demon, escapes, fights for freedom, realises she's got to face Marcus etc. Cornelius the demon works out how to control Sarah's body, escapes, fights for freedom and realises that he has to face Dietrich. Jess is employed by Death, and has to go save Sarah and a bunch of other souls that the demons are stealing, she gets to grip with being a trainee reaper etc. Teo is kidnapped, driven insane and subjected to demon possession, he is sent to hunt Sarah and her demon, he learns a load of stuff and meets demon assassins etc. Marcus is the evil guy behind the kidnappings and demonic happenings, so he engineers all of the above, and goes about with his demon contacts etc. Meanwhile Dietrich goes along with what Marcus says, until it's time for him to wreak havoc.
<end of plot>
The point I'm trying to make is, it was just too much.
It was trying to cover too much ground in too little time, and I couldn't keep track; nor could I particularly care or connect with the characters because we were only getting a recap version.
I would have liked if Sutton picked one central character and focused this short story on them.
It felt like when an author is too familiar with the world they have created, they know all the characters' back-stories and reactions etc, and they forget that we newcomers don't.
This meant that any time a new spell, or escape/excuse/plot machination came up with no previous explanation, it felt like it had been wedged in there for the sole purpose of moving the story where Sutton wanted it to be. The rules of the world were never fully realised.
I also thought that all the characters sounded very much the same, so it was very hard to distinguish between them and make them memorable.
The ending is something that will split opinion. It is very abrupt and I guess you would say it's a cliff-hanger. In one sense it's very final, but I would have preferred it being expanded on.