Painless by Marty Thornley
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.
Oh my goodness.
Spoiler + Trigger Warning for those with Ommetaphobia like myself (fear of touching eyes)
I enjoy a good psychological thriller and I even sometimes lean towards more gruesome Stephen King type books, but this took the gore factor to a new level.
It seemed almost blind rage towards the gruesome details in the second half of this book. It's hard to remember or be invested in any of the surrounding background when the gore-filled events started happening closer and closer together. There was no delicate approach or real lead up before one character would be stabbing herself in the eye and another would go from biting her nails to biting off her own fingers. It seemed a bit senseless with a tad bit of whiplash.
The structure of the story left me wanting more. I got a surface level introduction to each patient and even the doctors and staff on duty, but I never felt connected to anyone. I wanted more depth and a more definitive lead character. I wanted more evolution in the backdrop, to feel the dense, eerie environment and creep factor of this setting that would keep me on the edge of my seat, never not feeling uneasy about this whole backwoods procedure. The story had a great premise, but I wanted a little more of some things and a little less of others.
The part that I did enjoy was the symmetry between the past and each characters demise. Each character had their quirks and the author found a unique way to attribute those factors into their obsessive demises. Also, I'd like to applaud the epilogue. Well done leaving me creeped out and interested.
Painless was definitely an interesting read, but the excessive gore became distracting and took away a bit from the entertainment value for me.
Performed by JKS Communications of the author Marty Thornley
Q: Painless is more than just a horror novel. Can you explain how losing your brother to an overdose inspired you to revisit this story?
A: It did not exactly happen that way. I had not written anything in years. As I was approaching the one year memorial for my brother, I really just wanted to be creative again. Painless had always been my favorite, and I think most complete, screenplay. It had a couple mentions of pills but it was not a critical part of the story. Being a screenplay, there had been no room for looking inside the character's heads or knowing their back story. Since I would have to flesh that out, I thought I could weave some memories of my brother into the characters. It is mostly Greg, but little bits show up across the board, like Franky, the guy who always has a pocket knife, or Cesar, who could be funny one minute and short-tempered the next. As I wrote it, it became more about addiction that I ever intended. The most startling moment for me was when I realized that the obsessed doctor, unwilling to give up his doomed idea, was maybe more an expression of addiction that anything I wrote about Greg.
Q: What attracts you to the psychological horror genre, both as a writer and a reader?
A: My guiding interest is always suspense. Suspense can be present in a tense drama or love story, but is most obvious in thrillers and horror stories. The first time I thought about being a filmmaker was watching old Hitchcock films, rented from the Plymouth Library. They had a huge collection of VHS and eventually DVD movies and TV shows. I binge watched Hitchcock films before being-watching was even a term. There was something about his camera movements and editing that I recognized across films, and I somehow knew that it was the psychology of the director being projected from the screen and into the viewers head. I would later learn about the "Auteur Theory" and why that all worked. Later, I found other directors that could do the same thing - Kubrick, Lynch, Cronenberg, Scorses. When it is done correctly, it is like the storyteller is reaching right into the brain of the observer and pulling them into the story.
Q: Painless visits topics like addiction and mental health in a raw and unique way. What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I think there are a few ways readers walk away from Painless, and they are all okay with me. Some have just said they enjoyed the read, and that it was a fun, gory horrific story. Others have appreciated the elements of addiction or mental health that all the characters are dealing with in some way. I have been surprised to see the number of reviews that mention a connection to the chronic pain. For someone who has lived with chronic pain to read the book and feel a connection to the characters is incredible for me to hear. I will give one little teaser though, to mention something important to me and something that no one has mentioned yet...The Prologue and Epilogue are in the present tense, while the rest of the book is in the past tense. I'm waiting for someone to have some ideas about that.