The horror genre can be a brilliant form of catharsis, both as a reader and a writer, and a basic way to engage our emotional centers. Horror scares us and it excites us, often while reflecting on societal fears, and can sometimes even make couples feel closer together (look up Dolf Zilmann's Snuggle Theory). But can it cure us? Can horror repair long-standing psychological issues, or fix broken inter-personal relationships? This latter scenario is the focus behind Mira Grant's latest novella, Final Girls.
Dr. Jennifer Webb has developed a next-gen system of therapy, using a potent combination of virtual reality, psychotropics, horror scenarios, and lucid dreaming. Her patient, Esther, a reporter sent to debunk Webb's work, is traumatized by a childhood scandal that ended with her innocent father murdered in prison. In order to present a well-rounded report on Webb's work for the pop-sci mag she works for, Esther will have to undergo a scary bit of therapy.
Mira Grant (pseudonym for Seanan McGuire) approaches horror much like Webb, delivering cutting-edge concepts coupled with scares (her Newsfeed series was a terrific and multi-layered combination of politics, science, and zombies). Final Girls is certainly a more cerebral dash of horror than an emotional one, and it's certainly a fun and easy enough read, but one that carries with it a sort of double-edged sword.
This is a fun novella, and I enjoyed the few hours spent reading it. However, it's brevity doesn't do the characters any real favors. I liked the whipsmart concept at play here, but I never felt truly engaged on an emotional level. There weren't any true surprises for me to gush over, although the overall, long-lasting impact of Webb's treatment on its patients is certainly worth savoring. While there's a rich vein of darkness running throughout, there's nothing particularly potent or memorable action-wise, and the characters are pretty thin. There just wasn't enough for me to latch on to in the personalities of either Esther or Webb, or the malevolent third parties seeking to undo the both of them.
Bottom line: this is a coolly executed bit of fun, but certainly one of Grant's more minor, shallower works.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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