Set during the Great Irish Famine of the mid-1800s, first-time author Kessler’s tale of horror centers on an unforgiving landlord and his quest for the “golden soul.”
Mr. Green is no ordinary blackguard motivated by typical vices. He is the immortal Lucifer, as manipulative, cunning and deceptive as portrayed in any version of scripture. Describing himself as God’s lesser son, “the forgotten one,” Green obsesses over the golden soul. This “most precious of Father’s creations” will grant Green the gift of prophecy, bringing him back into God’s good graces. Kessler, who describes his debut as “A Spiritual Horror Story for Secular Readers,” draws upon a wide variety of religious traditions and throws them in a blender. The resulting puree of beliefs and moralities is spread liberally among the book’s characters as they struggle with the eternal tension of good versus evil. Whether sociopathic, morally ambivalent or filled to the brim with faith, each player ultimately comes face-to-face with the cheerily malevolent Green. But characters exercise their own free will to determine how these meetings end and the role they play in Green’s master plan. Although he is not above applying coercion to sway their decisions, even Green knows he must abide by the rules of the universe. He cannot force anyone to do his will; they must choose it for themselves. Part horror story, part science fiction, Kessler’s title uses literary techniques reminiscent of Stephen King: The ordinary quickly becomes the extraordinary, bizarre, supernatural and frightening. As the novel inches toward the final confrontation, the narrative offers an alternative view of God and his divine connection to humanity. At this point, however, the prose adopts a sermonizing tone and it becomes less clear if Kessler is writing a story or his own religious manifesto.
Fans of the macabre will enjoy this novel approach to a timeless struggle.