Mira Grant mixes a diverse set of influences ranging from The Matrix to A Nightmare On Elm Street to produce her fresh, tautly-written new novella, Final Girls.
Dr. Jennifer Webb is a controversial figure in the scientific community. She’s developed a new method of therapy that combines chemical cocktails and computer-controlled dream scenarios—most drawn from horror movies—designed to permanently alter her patients’ behavior. Esther Hoffman is a journalist writing a story on Webb, and she agrees to take part in a therapy session to help her better understand the process and its effects.
Both of these women are operating under separate, competing agendas. Hoffman is haunted by the tragic consequences of her own turn at therapy years ago, and is determined to prove Webb’s approach is just another dangerous, unnecessary method of meddling with a person’s mind. Webb is blinded by her own ambition and, aware of Hoffman’s past, so determined to guide the woman’s conclusions that she inserts herself into Hoffman’s therapy scenario.
What neither of them know is that, while their dream-selves are bonding during a “zombie apocalypse,” a third party has entered the facility—another woman with a different, deadly agenda to carry out.
Grant has several elements in play here, and she finds a way to devote time to all of them without sacrificing the momentum of the story. We’re given plenty to chew on, from the ethical implications of mind-altering therapy, to the question of personal agendas shaping professional decisions, to the fine line between espionage and sabotage. Grant also writes some extremely effective scenes of pure horror, from the opening scenes cut straight from a slasher movie to the undead uprising “experienced” by Hoffman and Webb.
With Final Girls, Grant set a difficult agenda for herself: tell a thought-provoking story that examines some serious moral and ethical questions within the framework of a summer page-turner. Mission accomplished.