S.L. Grey’s The Ward preys on our innate fear of infirmity, of being helpless, vulnerable and mortal. What could be worse than waking up in a hospital with no idea how you got there or why you are even there? From the start you get the feeling that something is off about the state of things in New Hope, the hospital where our two main characters, Farrell and Lisa, find themselves and it’s not just because they are in a public hospital with all the overcrowding, lack of resources and apathetic, overworked staff that entails. Someone or something sinister is roaming the halls at night tampering with patients. It soon becomes clear that the hospital isn’t safe. When the unlikely duo try to escape from New Hope they find themselves trapped in the Wards of Downside, a twisted reflection of our own world where horrific experiences are the norm and everything has a price...
At its heart The Ward is a very human-driven horror. The most horrific thing is not the machinations of Downside, but how far the characters are willing to go in order to satisfy their own desires. The ending provides for some gleeful satisfaction as one of the characters get exactly what they deserve. A primo read indeed!
The Ward is a creepy, unsettling take on the health system and our own obsession with vanity. While it never quite scared me, I found the narrative unsettling and thought-provoking in equal measure. The real impact of the novel is what the twisted world of Downside says about our own. One thing is certain – I’ll never look at hospitals in quite the same way. This is a primo read with some uniquely South African touches thrown in. Definitely recommended!
The Rating: 7.5/10 (Very good)