Get ready to be creeped the hell out – come June, you won’t experience a shopping mall in the same boring way again.
The Mall follows two distinctly different characters:
Daniel is a bookseller for Only Books in Highgate Mall; he puts up with terrible customers and condescending colleagues and doesn’t yet actually know what he wants. Rhoda is damaged goods, highly opinionated and quick to lose her temper. As events spin out of control, these two wildly different people find themselves sucked into a world that they would never have believed could exist.
Character-wise, both Daniel and Rhoda were extremely entertaining in their own right – Daniel is quiet, keeps mostly to himself, tries not to ruffle anyone’s feathers and keeps his head down and does what’s expected of him. Rhoda is practically a polar opposite: she’s loud, unafraid (on the surface), impulsive and, as a consequence, in a really crap place in her life. When Daniel and Rhoda come together, the sparks do fly, and as the tensions rise more is revealed about the characters so that, at the novel’s climax, Daniel and Rhoda that you travel with are in their raw, almost elemental form, which makes the climax that much more devastating.
Horror-wise, The Mall is utterly brilliant. Thanks to this book, shopping malls now have a sinister, slightly off-kilter atmosphere; I work in a mall and in a bookshop, so for me the effect will be doubly unsettling. Every mall has its creepy corners – that section of the parking lot you stay away from, the service-door that you’ve never seen anyone leave from or enter. But after you read this, you may want to lay off mall-visits for a while. There is also incredible world-building is this novel – an entire world and way of life, and entire culture, that is scary as hell and deeply unsettling. The Mall has the kind of horror that makes you want to hide under the thickest blanket you can find, but also the kind of horror that changes the way you view the world; it certainly changes both Daniel and Rhoda, and when you read their story, you’ll understand why, and be changed because you understand.
What makes the story even more creepy and scary is that it takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa. The descriptions of the mall and the surrounding areas, the characters we come into contact with, the kind of language used, all ground this book in Jo’burg without overwhelming the story – you know exactly where you are, and that makes it really unsettling. I’m sure the readers in the UK who come to SA after reading The Mall will have an… interesting experience while shopping. 😉
This definitely isn’t a book for the squeamish – the descriptions are extremely vivid and it’s impossible not to have a mental-picture flash through your mind; there are plenty of cliffhangers and ‘Holy shit!’ moments, and just enough cutting humor so that you don’t end up losing your mind from continuous onslaught of creeping fear. Seriously, what Stephen King did for the US and Maine, SL Grey is doing for South Africa and Jo’burg; there are some places people probably think a bit differently of, and I know I’ll be staying far away from service-doors and mall alley-ways, that’s for sure.
This book isn’t only for lovers of Horror – if you want to read something smart, absolutely current, funny and scary, then I’m pretty sure you’ll love The Mall. This is definitely the kind of book that starts things and twists things, so that your perspective won’t be the same after reading it. But it is an incredible Horror novel and definitely the start of something awesome in the publishing world! I’m really looking forward to The Wards (hell, after what I now know about The Wards, maybe looking forward to it isn’t the perfect way to say it) and I can’t wait to sell this book to unsuspecting Mall shoppers! *evil grin*
9 / 10
To pre-order your copies (the hardcover will be available in June), click here for Amazon UK, or if you have a Kindle, click here to get your copy. To read more about SL Grey and The Mall, click here, here and here. 🙂