Book Review: Final Girls by Mira Grant (2017)

May 1st, 2017 7:00 am by mad mags

“THE WOOD is dark and the wood is deep…”

four out of five stars

“…and the trees claw at the sky with branches like bones, ripping holes in the canopy of clouds, revealing glimpses of a distant, rotting moon the color of dead flesh.”

Esther Hoffman is a popular science writer who’s spent most of her career debunking pseudoscience. After all, she owes it to her dad, a widower who was falsely accused of kidnapping and child abuse when she was just fifteen. Benjamin was eventually exonerated, but not before he was murdered in prison.

Esther’s latest target is Dr. Jennifer Webb, founder of the Webb Virtual Therapy Institute and all-around mad scientist. Her proprietary technology – which includes virtual reality pods, a potent cocktail of mind-altering drugs, and computer simulations pulled straight from the brain of Stephen King – is being marketed as a new and radical form of therapy. Siblings who don’t very much care for each other can run through Webb’s B-movie gauntlet and emerge on the other side closer than ever, with a bond newly forged on the conquered remains of slashers or zombies or witches – take your pick!

Esther sees this as nothing more than a high tech version of regression therapy – the source of those so-called “repressed memories” that destroyed her father – but Dr. Webb disagrees. And what better way to legitimize her work than by winning over her harshest critic?

But things go from predictably bad to bloody worse when …. nope, never mind. The less I say about Final Girls, the better, because so much of the enjoyment is wrapped up in the surprise.

This is a Mira Grant joint, through and through. What Final Girls is lacking in killer mermaids, it more than makes up for in chillingly beautiful prose; intelligence and humor and wit; twists like whoah; and, of course, queer girls (yay!). This is a smart and self-aware take on the horror genre, yet the scifi element tethers it firmly to reality. Virtual reality pods aren’t so terribly difficult to imagine – nor is the inevitable corporate/military-industrial battle to use them in the service of harm vs. good.

The story is equally tense and imaginative, and I was left guessing ’til the very end. It almost reminds me of The Cabin in the Woods, just a bit, in the way it turns a familiar trope on its head, cackling all the while. Like kissing in a rainstorm. A rainstorm made of blood … and maybe a few stray bits of viscera, just for extra effect.

A strong 4 1/2 stars. I could have connected with the characters a little more strongly, but overall this is a minor complaint.

Also, mermaids.

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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