The Orphan. Book Review

the-orphan-christopher-ransom-sphere-booksTHE ORPHAN by Christopher Ransom

Sphere, p/b, 496pp, £7.99

Reviewed by Craig Knight

Darren Lynwood is haunted by images of his childhood and when Adam appears, Darren is reminded of someone from his past who looked just like the boy. As Darren’s memories reawaken, his marriage and his life are threatened by a chilling darkness.

The blurb on the back of this book states that ‘The truth is more terrifying than you can imagine’. Does the blurb reflect the terrifying story this book contains? Well, no not really. The Orphan isn’t terrifying exactly, and not even scary but it’s certainly creepy and more than a little bit weird. The story doesn’t waste any time getting started and is certainly a follower of the in media res style with the first weird event happening almost straight away. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it sets the pace for the novel and works as an effective hook but it also reflects the rushed pace that is prevalent throughout the book.

Ransom creates a believable setting with his small cast of characters and jumps between Adam’s and Darren’s point of view. Each is a fully developed and well-rounded character with Adam providing the horror of the story. Adam doesn’t remember who he is but he knows something is following him. It is this unseen enemy that is The Orphan’s weakness. The first scene where the reader is introduced to this threat is initially effective and shows these hideous creatures but any potential terror is destroyed as soon as they are described as looking like giant babies. Giant babies? After this, all I could see in my mind was the ‘Staypuft Marshmellow Man’ from Ghostbusters and they lost credibility as a threat. Shame.

The primary antagonist, Sheila, is more effective and her succubus-style nature is genuinely eerie. It’s disappointing that as soon as her power to consume the minds of her sexual partners is shown, it is never referred to again. Just a little bit more continuity would have really helped to broaden this character.

Ransom’s writing style is easy to read and an enjoyable story on the whole but it is one of missed potential. The ending happens suddenly and has several ‘ah!’ moments as the plot strands start to get resolved but it has an equal number of ‘huh?’ moments as some things just don’t make sense. Ransom obviously had a well-crafted plot as the story arcs over the entire novel but it just doesn’t quite come together well enough to make this a stand-out book.

The Orphan is a decent read as the story is original with a great idea but its flaws make it unlikely that it’ll be one that you remember after a few months. It’s a mixed bag and one that sadly, could have been a lot more.