Thursday, March 7, 2013
The Ward by SL Grey
Title: The Ward
Author: SL Grey
Publisher: Corvus, 2012
THE MALL didn’t scare me. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t get me with the same visceral kick to the guts The Ward did. This time round writing partners Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg (the two halves of SL Grey) hit their stride and deliver an overall tighter novel. And, as always, they make me care what happens to two unlikable characters. Granted, I admit to wanting something really bad to happen to one.
Lisa is a basket case with major self-esteem issues which has led her to attempt to commit suicide in the past. Her body dismorphic disorder means she is never satisfied with her appearance, and will go to great lengths to obtain what she considers the perfect body even if it means having surgery in the worst of the government hospitals. In that sense, she makes a perfect candidate for the Modification Ward.
Farrell shares Lisa’s obsession with outward appearance, though he projects it on to others. His chosen career as fashion photographer pretty much sums up the type of personality one can expect. Shallow and self-centred, he is also a control freak, so when he ends up severely ill, blind and at the mercy of heartless medical practitioners in the New Hope hospital (the distillation of everything that is wrong with government-funded South African health care), readers can only expect things to get worse.
What lies in wait beyond New Hope exists as a dark parody of the medical system, a world where patients are either donors or clients, and medical staff scuttle about like worker ants in a diabolical hive presided over by the scalpel-happy butchers. In a big way The Ward is about people getting their just deserts. Anyone who’s dipped into Clive Barker’s cenobite-populated Hellraiser universe will resonate with the goings on downside as Grey terms it. If you’ve ever had a horrific experience in hospital, it is echoed within the pages of The Ward, offering readers an inevitable downward spiral. Consider yourself duly warned.
This review appeared in the Pretoria News on February 18, 2013