cover image The Ward

The Ward

S.L. Grey. Atlantic/Corvus (IPG, dist.), $12.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-85789-586-8

Pseudonymous South African author Grey (Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg) practically reinvents the body horror genre with this standalone sequel to The Mall, which veers from creepy through disgusting to gonzo while constantly subverting and reinventing familiar tropes. Fashion photographer Farrell has just woken up in run-down New Hope hospital, blind and unable to remember how he got there. Fellow patient Lisa, who has body dysmorphic disorder, is in the hospital because it’s the only place she can get the plastic surgery she desperately wants. The two overhear suspicious conversations, encounter mysterious nurses, and gradually realize that they’re unable to leave the hospital or contact the outside world. They also begin to unravel Farrell’s recent past, in which a fight with his girlfriend takes on extremely ominous implications—especially once his sight is restored and he reads his medical file. Grey mixes elements of conspiracy thrillers and social satire with truly horrific imagery, and while a few elements are clichéd (do we really need another creepy, silent character with eyes sewn shut?), the story is gripping and worthwhile for anyone capable of handling the gruesomeness. (Aug.)