22 August 2018

Review of Painless


The debut psychological-horror novel from author Marty Thornley is a page-turning ride, a front row seat to a clinical trial gone horribly wrong. 

For Greg Owens, this was supposed to be a chance to end years of back pain and escape his reliance on pain pills. If it all worked out, he could maybe even get back the life he left behind as the pills took control.

Instead, as the patients are cured of their physical pain, they encounter a different sort of pain building inside them – obsessive thoughts, depression, self-destruction. The side-effects grow worse, and the suspense ratchets tighter. The patients want answers and violent revenge, setting them on a collision course with a crazed doctor, determined to protect his life's obsession.






From the first page, I was captivated by Greg. Having fallen off a ladder while on the job, simple daily tasks are now maddening and all consuming. He embodies the spoon metaphor frequently used by those with chronic pain. You start the day with a limited amount of spoons and every activity performed throughout the day takes one of those spoons. When you are out of spoons, you’re done. That’s where Greg is. He’s done. Rock bottom. When the opportunity arises to live “normally”, Greg seizes the chance and sets off to join others in a clinical trial that promises to cure them of their pain.

I typically don't like books that have multiple POVs. I find all that jumping around to be distracting. In the case of Painless, it wasn't so much that there were multiple narrators, but rather an opportunity for the reader to get inside each person’s head. Instead of having the story told to you, you actually got to experience it with each character. This allowed me to feel invested in each character and more sympathetic to their plight.

As each of the patients in turn undergo the procedure, we realize that this cure might just be a curse. Each of the patients start experiencing horrifying side effects, while the walls start running with blood. Buckets and buckets of blood.

Painless is not for the faint-hearted. Gruesome and bloody, Painless gleefully imparts all the gory details. I found myself cringing, laughing, and then reading passages out loud to share. What unfurls next is burned into my brain so explicitly that days later, I'm still mulling it over and chuckling. 

While I will say some parts were slightly predictable, the cringe factor more than made up for it. If this were a movie, I'd be there with my bucket of popcorn. Painless would make a wonderfully blood-spattered script for the big screen for us horror geeks.

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Marty Thornley