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The Scrubs / Simon Janus

thScrubs-web-ready-28229.jpgBad Moon Books / July 2008
Reviewed by: Jeff Burk

Simon Janus is the pseudonym of thriller author Simon Wood (We All Fall Down, Paying the Piper). The Scrubs is his first horror novel and the premier of this new horror-writing persona. So how does Wood/Janus fair at this new venture?

Wormwood Scrubs is a prison in London that offers its inmates much more than three square meals a day and time for reflection on past crimes. Prisoners can opt to take part in a special program called “The North Wing Project”, in which they’re sent into the mind of a serial killer. Survive this super-secret military experiment and a full pardon is theirs. Michael Keller has just volunteered for the program and soon lives to regret it.

A team of scientists have managed to open a portal directly into the brain of James Jeter, a deranged serial killer. Two other prisoners have gone through the portal – called “The Rift” - but never came back. Keller's assignment is to enter “The Rift”, document what he finds, and learn the identity of Jeter’s last victim as well as what happened to the other two prisoners.

The surreal world of abstract horrors that awaits Keller will thrill many readers of dark genre fiction. Janus shows us bizarre sights rarely seen in mainstream horror. It’s just a shame he doesn’t really go anywhere with it. By the end of the novella, the reader is left with many more questions than answers - and not in a good, mystery-kind-of-way. The Scrubs could have benefitted from at least another hundred pages or so to make the experience truly satisfying.

Of particular note is the construction of the book. The book begins with an introduction explaining to the reader that Simon Janus is actually Simon Wood. In his afterword, Janus points out that Wormwood Scrubs is based on a real prison in West London (yes, the name is real too), but the one appearing in the story is (thankfully) fictional. While seemingly odd at first for the author to create this fake history and go to great lengths to make the reader aware that they are indeed fake, these little sidebars reinforce the main idea of imagination becoming reality and vice versa from the story itself.

The Scrubs is an ambitious first work of horror and suffers a bit at times for it. One cannot find fault in the characters or the writing, but these aspects quickly become lost in the strange, albeit inventive, multi-reality story. The author promises in the afterword that Wormwood Scrubs is just the first story in the Wormwood universe. Here's hoping that future books will deliver on the promise evident in The Scrubs.

Purchase The Scrubs by Simon Janus.

Posted on Friday, July 4, 2008 at 09:07AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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