Review: THE SCRUBS (Kindle Edition 2010)
Author: Simon Wood (writing as Simon Janus)
While horror is not usually my genre of choice, a book like THE SCRUBS could easily make me a convert.
The novella opens with prisoner Michael Keeler being led by guards to the mysterious North Wing of the Wormwood Scrubs penitentiary, where he's agreed to participate in a hush-hush project of some kind. One in which prisoners go in, but don't come back out.
Since he's serving time for a double homicide committed during a bank robbery (and since one of his victims was a child he killed by accident) Keeler feels he has little to live for or lose by signing up for the project. Little does he know what awaits him.
Inside the North Wing, deranged serial killer James Jeter has been hooked up to a bizarre contraption and force-fed hallucinogens, in order to create an alternate reality using Jeter's subconscious mind -- a place reachable via The Rift (a portal between worlds, also created by Jeter's mind).
Two other prisoners have entered The Rift and failed to return. Keeler's job is to find them and bring them back.
I will say no more about the plot, except to applaud Simon Wood (writing as Simon Janus) for his incredibly imaginative (if occasionally grotesque -- be aware that the book includes scenes that aren't for the faint of heart :)) imagery and deviously clever plot twists. He even manages to weave in a subtext in favor of prison reform and against cruel and unusual punishment. Not to mention one deriding the evils of greed realized at the expense of human decency.
I exaggerate not when I say that, from the moment I started reading this novella, I simply couldn't put it down. I could scarcely wait for the next page to come up on my Kindle after the end of each chapter, so I could see where the story would go next.
THE SCRUBS is short enough to be consumed in one sitting (which is how I read it), but substantial (and haunting) enough to leave you pondering the end long after finishing it.