Lisa is a plastic surgery addict with severe self-esteem issues. The only hospital that will let her go under the knife is New Hope: a grimy, grey-walled facility dubbed "No Hope" by its patients.
Farrell is a celebrity photographer. His last memory is a fight with his fashion-model girlfriend and now he's woken up in No Hope, alone. Needle marks criss-cross his arms. A sinister nurse keeps tampering with his drip. And he's woken up blind. Panicked and disorientated, Farrell persuades Lisa to help him escape, but the hospital's dimly lit corridors only take them deeper underground - into a twisted mirror world staffed by dead-eyed nurses and doped-up orderlies. Down here, in the Modification Ward, Lisa can finally have the face she wants... but at a price that will haunt them both forever.
Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg met in a pub while bunking a crime seminar and, as one does at pubs, discovered a mutual interest in horror. Sarah, a crime novelist and screenwriter, was a die-hard zombie fanatic; Louis, a literary writer, editor and recovering bookseller, had studied vampire and apocalyptic fiction. Rejecting their initial plans for a vampire-vs-zombie faceoff, they decided to write the first mainstream South African horror novel together and S.L. Grey was born. Sarah also writes the Deadlands series of zombie novels for young adults with her daughter Savannah.
As I listened to this book I had an overriding image of Katherine Helmond in Brazil. That whole weirdness to me captures The Ward.
The book starts off fairly normally and then gets creepy and weird. The characters, unfortunately, are not particularly likeable. Lisa Cassavetes is particularly shallow and odious and suffers from a most extreme form of body dysmorphia. ("Boo hoo. Poor me. I see myself as fat and ugly. I'm self-centred and shallow and my family has spent a fortune on counselling and therapy for me but all I want is more surgery to make me perfect.") Josh Farrell doesn't seem to have done anything more heinous than be an arrogant jerk who dominates his supermodel girlfriend, but he's not a terribly sympathetic character.
Josh wakes up in a hospital and discovers that he's been sent to the state-funded, low-income hospital and he's blind and stuck in a janitorial closet. Lisa is in hospital for voluntary surgery and seems to suffer from surgical addiction which she failed to disclose to the hospital administration. Things start to get dark and shadowy at the hospital and there is a suggestion of sinister goings-on. Josh and Lisa meet up in the hospital waiting room. They escape! They're returned to the hospital. There are more dark and sinister things. They get released. They return.
It gets very bizarre from about an hour into the book. The premise is an interesting one, and it may be that the first book by S.L. Grey (The Mall) will fill in some blanks.
This had potential for creepy gothic horror, but it seems to have verged in a different direction. There's a parallel reality where "donors" donate various bits and pieces to "clients" who undergo the surgery. There's a price to pay, and the weird alternate reality Ministry bureaucratic drones will come to collect their pound of flesh (literally).
The narration by Ingeborg Riedmaier and Denver Isaac starts out jarringly. It takes a while to place the accents (and the story itself). Riedmaier narrates the story from Lisa's point of view and Isaac narrates from Farrell's point of view. That works fairly well, and both narrators have fairly good emotional depth and vocal range. The only odd bit is the characterization of one of the nurses who is portrayed with an African accent or intonation by Isaac and with no accent or intonation by Riedmaier. Other than that, the narration works pretty well.
The description and dialogue of the Ministry characters is particularly well done.
At points I thought this book was rubbish, and then it picked up again and held my interest. There were a couple of unexpected twists and the ending isn't what I had anticipated.
But it leaves me scratching my head a little. I don't know whether I liked it or enjoyed it. I didn't loathe it. I think it was okay, which is why I gave it 3 stars across the board. It's like a combination of Brazil, 1984, Brave New World, The City and The City, and a random sampling of Robin Cook medical thrillers.
I'd give it a qualified recommendation. If it ever ends up in the Blue Moon "pick a book for $4.95" sale, I'd recommend getting it. I'm not sure it's worth more than about $15. So if you can get it for less than that, I'd recommend it.
It's bizarre, all right, but it's kind of interesting.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I'm still not sure what that was. it wasn't good and it wasn't bad. it was just very strange