Reading Level: Adult
Length: 104 pages
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Release Date: April 30, 2017
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: eGalley from NetGalley.com
Rating: 4/5 stars
“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.”
I got this novella through NetGalley to review. Previous to reading this I have read Grant’s Newsflesh series (loved it) and the first couple books in her Parasitology series (didn’t like it much). Grant is a pen name for Seanan McGuire who writes many urban fantasy series (October Daye, Incryptid, Velveteen vs.) which I absolutely adore. This was a well done novella. I enjoyed the concept but thought the ending felt a bit rushed.
This whole story explores the concept of what would happen if you could fix social/mental disorders you suffer from by working through VR nightmares. Supposedly fear is a strong motivator and could potentially be used to change your most basic reactions to people and/or life situations. Of course Dr. Webb wants to use this for good to help people. However, Esther is a skeptic that is out to prove the Dr. Webb is full of it.
When Esther agrees to try the therapy out to debunk it, things go horribly wrong. As you might imagine there are a lot of thriller/horror aspects to this story. Things get quite gory and creepy at times. Despite this I never felt super scared reading this…just kind of creeped out.
I felt like this novella didn’t quite reach its full potential. You are talking about dealing in nightmares here and IMHO things never get all that nightmarish. I just feel like that part of the story could have been a bit more creative and engaging. I however, did really enjoy the idea of using nightmares as therapy and thought that was interesting.
I also felt like the ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked to see in more detail (just another little chapter or something) how things played out between Dr. Webb and Esther. All that being said this was a good novella that makes you think while delivering a thrill.
Overall this was a good novella. I think it had potential to be a great novella but it didn’t quite make it for me. Some of the concepts were really interesting and I liked the main characters. I thought some aspects could have been more creative and the ending was a bit rushed. I would recommend for Mira Grant fans and for horror fans.