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Final Girls - Book Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published October 21st 2017
Virtual sisterhood in the making
final girls, Mira Grant, horror novel, horror story, virtual reality

"Her heart hammers even harder in her chest as she turns, and there he is, there he is, her father standing in the doorway, a stern expression on his beloved, beaded face. She runs to him before taking the time to think about the action, flinging her arms around his waist and burying her face in his shirt. He smells like cedar chips and sweat and leather, the scents she will always associate with him, until the day she dies.

(In a small, closed pod, miles and years and realities from this moment that never existed, the woman Esther would grow up to become bit down on her mouth guard, back arching away from the foam surface beneath her, every muscle in her body protesting this monumental lie. On the other side of a glass window, a technician in a long white coat frowned and adjusted the doses on her medication, sedating her until she subsided, relaxing back into the illusion of a home that never was, a moment that never happened, back into the now.)"

Dr Jennifer Webb has found a way to use advanced virtual reality technology in psychological therapy. Patients are placed into frightening scenarios which, once they have been faced and overcome, help to give closure to the grieving or build bonds between siblings who never got along before. Journalist Esther Hoffman, who has spent her entire professional career debunking pseudoscience, is worried about the potential for this technology to be misused for brainwashing or worse. She agrees to undergo the treatment in order to write her article, but a sinister stranger comes along to throw a spanner in the works.

Final Girls is a short science fiction thriller by Mira Grant, author of the best-selling Newsflesh series and Parasitology trilogy. It's not much like her other work, and has more the feel of a debut novel since the writing is very uneven. Presumably the parts of the book set in the virtual world are supposed to sound like a cheesy horror movie, but the author does cheesy a little too well, making parts of the book (especially the first few pages) so bad that I had to force myself to keep reading in places. The premise is intriguing, reminicent of the TV series Dollhouse, and Black Mirror, and there are a few good scenes I could picture very clearly. It's a book that would probably work better as a film. There is not a lot of time to get to know the characters, but Mira Grant does a lot with a little when it comes to describing them. There is a theme running through it of the importance of sisterhood and female friendship, and it would be nice to see a bit more of that, both in fiction and reality.

Final Girls is a quick read, easy to get through in one session, making it ideal for a rainy day or a cosy evening in with a cuppa. It's a sci fi thriller about women looking out for other women. It's not the most elegantly written book of the year but there is plenty in it to enjoy and reflect on.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Subterranean Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Published: April 2017
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