Game Name: Eternal Victim
Creator: Dexter Morgenstern
Player 1: The Witness
Instruction Manual: Missing. Please work it out as you go along.
- Level 1 – The Whistler
- Level 2 – The Constrictor
- Level 3 – The Director
- Level 4 – The Father
The most important thing you need to know going into this novella is that you only know what the Witness knows, which in the beginning is very little indeed. This made for a serious amount of confusion on my part and significant helpings of “What the hell did I sign up for?!”
If this story is of interest to you please don’t give up when you get the feeling you’re hallucinating; when every time you think you know where you are the scene changes on you and you don’t know how you got there. Your patience and attempt to retain your sanity will be rewarded if you stick with it. Know that things will fall into place. I graduated from confusion to intrigue and then to fascination and compulsion. I had to know what was coming next and how it would all come together in the end.
Dexter Morgenstern writes at the start of the novella that he wants to write stories for games and as I read I could see this story translating into the gaming world quite easily. I viewed the story much like a game as I progressed and ultimately came to see the story as having four main levels, each with a level boss to face at the end. While there was a cyclical nature to what the player needs to accomplish within the level, each level takes place in a different time period and with different characters.
During each level the Witness gains information, mostly fairly cryptic at the time, which they hope will eventually help them make sense of who they are and what their connection is to the characters they encounter within the game. The characters that remain consistent throughout the levels (besides the Witness) are the girl in the mirror and the Preta, which is translated from Sanskrit as ‘hungry ghost’.
Because characters come and go you get to know their stories but I didn’t find I had the time to connect emotionally with them. Having said that, there’s so much action and running around that it’s not as though any of the characters have time to sit down and have a chat over a cuppa with you anyway. If it helps you to put all of this into context, Dexter describes it himself as a “chaotic trifecta of Buddhism, history, and ghost-zombies”. Intriguing, huh?!
Because I seem to be fairly immune to feeling fear while reading, I wasn’t scared reading Eternal Victim. I was unsettled by it though and for me, feeling unsettled over a period of time is more uncomfortable to sit with than scary moments that come and go. I haven’t been this unsettled by a book in a long time so I was suitably impressed by that.
If you’re squeamish and/or the content warnings apply to you then you may want to skip this book or at least approach it with caution. If you can handle graphic details of tortuous murders committed by deranged serial killer types you should be okay, but you’d be forgiven if you cringe at certain points as your already overactive imagination works overtime. If you can eat while watching a Saw movie you should be fine too.
This novella is certainly not going to be for everyone as it truly is one of the strangest books I’ve read, but it happily transformed for me from being close to ditching it for the first 10% to being glad I persevered fairly soon after. I’d like to reread Eternal Victim to see how the reading experience changes now that I know how it all fits together. I’m definitely interested in reading more books by this author.
Content warnings include murder, sexual assault and torture.
Beware the fog!
Credits: Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dexter Morgenstern and BookBuzz.net for the opportunity to read this novella.
Once Upon a Blurb
Follow the Witness as she travels through a perpetual series of nightmares, haunted by a mixture of pernicious serial killers and their imprisoned, undead victims, known as preta. As she wanders through time and memories shared by the killers and their victims, she fights to solve the puzzle of their connection to each other and to herself. Her only hope of salvation lies in connecting key victims to the souls who can rescue them, thus waking her from the nightmare, but one killer follows the next, bringing forth a new set of victims, a new score of preta, and immediately landing her in a new terror.