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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Book review – The Ward

Like its predecessor, The Mall (Corvus, 2011), S.L. Grey’s The Ward is a juicy human horror. In The Mall, the ill-fated characters encountered a parallel world known as the Downside, inhabited by the deliciously sociopathic Others, a mirror race to ours who display the worst of their human nature like we would a new pair of shoes.

The Ward is set in a public hospital known as New Hope, a setting many South Africans might find uncomfortably real. It is a place of misery and apathy, where patients would rather take their chances with their injuries than risk entering. New Hope is so horrible, that one of the characters doesn’t realize at first that he’s left the real world and entered the Downside. This nightmarish medical setting was enough to give me enough chills and cringes to last a lifetime.

In this instalment of Grey’s Downside reality, the victims are Farrel, a celebrity photographer that ends up in New Hope due to a clerical error, and Lisa, an emotionally damaged young woman addicted to plastic surgery.

The unlikely duo pair up when it becomes apparent that something evil is stalking the halls of New Hope at night. In a bid to escape, they end up in the Downside hospital, a place that mirrors the bureaucratic indifference of New Hope, but with double the brutality. Some of the scenes are so OMG-did-that-just-happen scary that if I was watching a movie I would have had a pillow in front of my face. If The Ward was a film, it would definitely be a J-Horror.

I decided to test the brilliance of The Ward by giving it to the world’s biggest horror fiction fan – my mother. A day later she called me up to tell me how much she loved it, and to ask if I had any more. I felt like a drug pusher, but there you go.

I’d suggest reading The Mall to get a taste of what the Downside is all about, then follow it up with The Ward. Like my Mom, you’ll quickly find yourself hungry for more.


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