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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Review: The Mall

Title: The Mall
Author: SL Grey
Nationality: South African
Year: 2010
Publisher: Corvus
Length: 300+ pages
Rating: 10/10
Summary: Buy it now

The outline

Disfigured junkie Rhoda holds mall-worker Dan at knifepoint so that he can help her look for her missing babysitting charge. But as they get deeper into the shopping centre’s network of service tunnels it quickly becomes clear that jobsworth security guards far from the biggest thing they have to worry about.


We've stumbled upon some kind of hideous, bloodless massacre. Naked female bodies are piled across the narrow passageway in front of us. There are so many limbs and torsos and hairless heads that it's difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Several severed body parts are scattered carelessly around the heap: there's a leg just half a metre away from us, and a hand seems to be pointing back the way we came, warning us to come no further. The bodies are stacked so randomly that they could have been vomited out of the ceiling, but this corridor's roof is sealed with water-stained ceiling board, and there are no doors or apertures in its walls.
'What the hell are they doing here?' I say.
Dan doesn't answer, but he must be thinking the same thing as me. Someone brought them here deliberately.
Far as I know we could be miles away from the mall. Not that I can imagine these particular mannequins being used by Truworths or any of the other chain fashion shops.

The verdict

Books as good as The Mall don’t come along very often. It certainly surprising that a book that at first glance appears to be firmly in the horror genre is actually one of the most inventive and refreshing novels of recent years.

The Mall’s strength lies in the fact that like all great novels it can be read on a number of different levels. On the face of it, it’s a modern homage to the great 1970s horror movies, part Dawn of the Dead, part  Westworld, part Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But it’s also an insightful character study on the moral disintegration of a middle-class teenager. Go deeper still and you’ll find a witty satire about modern life, consumerism, body image, identity and social alienation.

The star of the novel is Rhoda, the ultimate anti-heroine. Who better to take on the horrors of consumerism and the fashion world than a tough, scarred, flat-chested drug addict who gets mistaken for a man on page one? Rhoda lights up the page and is far more fun than emo-kid Dan, who narrates alternate chapters with her.

The Mall is a novel that leaves you wanting more and wishing when you reach the end that there’s another chapter and not just the acknowledgements on the last page.

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