Final Girls by Mira Grant. ★★★
I’ve read some of this author’s work under the name Seanan McGuire, but I’d never read one of the stories she wrote as Mira Grant. I had very little idea of what to expect going into Final Girls. I knew that it involved a virtual reality program being used for therapy, that it focused on sisterly bond between two women, and that it may involve horror aspects. All of those were true, but it also turned out to be a novella. So I read this one a lot quicker than I expected!
Dr. Jennifer Webb has invented the method and technology for using virtual reality for therapy. To heal her clients of old wounds, she’ll send them through a virtual reality horror simulation, where they’ll feel completely immersed in the narrative. This therapy is usually used to rebuild strained family bonds, but she’s giving journalist Esther Hoffman an exclusive look at her techniques, which include Esther taking a trip via Dr. Webb’s proprietary VR tech. Esther has built her career debunking fraudulent therapy techniques, and she just can’t wait to disprove Dr. Webb. However, as she and Dr. Webb undertake a VR journey, events in the outside world influence them in ways they could never have expected.
Final Girls felt oddly structured, perhaps in part because I didn’t expect a novella. It felt like the set up took up a larger than usual percentage of the book. For instance, it was a while before Esther and Dr. Webb actually got into the VR simulation, and longer before things began to go seriously wrong. The climax of the novella ended up feeling sudden, and the wrap up came quickly as well. I just found the pacing all off.
Esther and Dr. Webb are the only fleshed out characters – Final Girls didn’t have much in the way of a supporting cast. When they were sent into the simulation, the program was reverting them to their preteen and teenage years, so we see both of them from different angles. However, even in the simulation, they still feel like the same characters we met at the beginning of the book. There friendship comes a little too quickly, but then again that’s the point of the programming.
I don’t think Final Girls was a good place for me to start with Mira Grant. Maybe I should try one of her zombie books? I’ve heard a lot about those. Those already fans of her work may enjoy this novella, but I would have liked for it to be a little more developed.
I received an ARC of the novella from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.