Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Final Girls by Mira Grant

Final Girls by Mira Grant is a science fiction horror novella from the Seanan McGuire pseudonym that brought us the Newsflesh and Parasitology series. It's not set in either of those universes, however, and in my opinion is a bit more firmly rooted in the horror genre than either.

What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears?

Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented proprietary virtual reality technology that purports to heal psychological wounds by running clients through scenarios straight out of horror movies and nightmares. In a carefully controlled environment, with a medical cocktail running through their veins, sisters might develop a bond they’ve been missing their whole lives—while running from the bogeyman through a simulated forest. But…can real change come so easily?

Esther Hoffman doubts it. Esther has spent her entire journalism career debunking pseudoscience, after phony regression therapy ruined her father’s life. She’s determined to unearth the truth about Dr. Webb’s budding company. Dr. Webb’s willing to let her, of course, for reasons of her own. What better advertisement could she get than that of a convinced skeptic? But Esther’s not the only one curious about how this technology works. Enter real-world threats just as frightening as those created in the lab. Dr. Webb and Esther are at odds, but they may also be each other’s only hope of survival.

As described in the blurb, the story of Final Girls follows Esther, a reporter who is covering a radical new psychological (/psychiatric since there are drugs involved?) therapy using an advanced form of virtual reality — so advanced, it incidentally includes the ability for outsiders to look at people's dreams while they're in the system. Esther has been chosen for the job because of a past that makes her especially sceptical of the lofty claims made by Dr Webb's organisation. Dr Webb, meanwhile, just wants to convince her of the efficacy of the system, using whatever means necessary. Things fall into horror when outside forces throw carefully laid plans awry.

This isn't a lengthy read but it is a very tense and interesting one. Midway through the book I was honestly unsure whether our protagonists would survive the ordeal and was wondering how the story would end. The fact that the reader is given more information than some of the characters — who have no way of knowing what's happening outside of the virtual reality — significantly adds to the tension. About half the story takes place in a virtual world and those scenes are easily differentiated from the real world scenes through the use of a different font, making the delineations quite clear.

Final Girls was an excellent read and I recommend it to fans of science fiction and horror. Being a novella it's also a quick read but one that will not leave you disappointed. I look forward to reading more of Mira Grant's work in the future.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: late April 2017, Subterranean Press
Series: No
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

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