Zombie Apocalypse: Horror Hospital by Mark Morris (book review).

‘Horror Hospital’ is a prequel novel set in the ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ universe created by well-known British horror editor Stephen Jones via a trilogy of ‘mosaic novels’, written by multiple contributors and comprised of simulated emails, newspaper articles, eyewitness reports and so on. Unlike these previous books, Mark Morris’ novel is much more conventional, being a continuous narrative written by a single author.


Most of the action takes place over a single night in and around University Hospital Lewisham in South East London. The story begins just before half past eleven at night with staff nurse Cat Harris driving to the hospital to start her shift. When a woman wanders off the pavement into the path of her car, Cat only just manages to avoid running her down. When she opens her window to ask if the lady is OK, she is confronted by a hissing, blood-spattered lunatic who jumps on the bonnet and tries to break through the windscreen. Cat manages to get away but only just.

Over in Greenwich, teenage gang member Carlton Tyler eagerly takes part in a huge fight with another gang but as he and his friends are leaving, he gets stabbed in the hip and collapses. An ambulance is called and he and his closest mates end up in A&E.

In Catford, Christine and three friends are out on her Hen Night dressed in sexy nurse outfits. The uniforms have been attracting the wrong sort of attention all evening but their night of booze-fuelled fun falls apart when a filth-encrusted vagrant dressed like a monk comes up and bites Christine’s friend Sam on the arm. While all the drunken blokes nearby beat the vagrant almost to death, the girls call a taxi and rush Sam to the hospital. She falls unconscious in the taxi and, by the time they arrive at A&E, the bite wound looks gangrenous. Ten minutes later, just as Cat Harris is examining the injury, Sam suddenly regains consciousness and starts biting or scratching anyone she can get hold of, including one of Cat’s colleagues and a member of Carlton’s gang.

As the night wears on, everyone who has been scratched or bitten falls unconscious for a short period before waking up again as a violent, blood-crazed loon. The medical staff at the hospital are slow to react to the scale and nature of the problem facing them. It’s not till one of Carlton’s gang, raised on a diet of horror films, points out that what’s happening has all the hallmarks of a zombie outbreak that the doctors and nurses stop worrying about curing their ‘sick patients’ and start trying to protect the staff and visitors who haven’t been bitten yet from being attacked by those that have.

In the middle of all this confusion, however, some people seem to know what’s going on, including the mysterious Professor Déesharné, who appears to have been granted unrestricted access to the entire hospital and its patients, even though he works for a private pharmaceutical company and shows no interest in helping the rest of the medical staff find a cure for the zombie plague. As increasing numbers of patients turn into flesh-munching monsters, will the hospital staff be able to save those that are left, let alone themselves?

‘Horror Hospital’ is an impressive and entertaining zombie novel. Morris creates many viewpoint characters, each provided with diverse, authentic voices and drawn in sufficient detail that we see them as distinct individuals with lives of their own. We don’t want them to die or to be turned into mindless zombies, which makes the clinical detachment Morris brings to the narrative, repeatedly introducing and building up a sympathetic new character before allowing them to get infected and turn into another brutal killing machine, so horribly effective. Morris is a highly capable writer, providing an intricate plot, strong pacing and dramatic writing throughout.

The story is also differentiated from the broader mass of ‘by the numbers’ zombie tales by the intricate back story, dealt with in much more detail in the three original ‘Zombie Apocalypse!’ mosaic novels, which links the zombie outbreak to a high level government conspiracy and which includes several intriguing supernatural elements. too.

If you’re a fan of intelligent, well-crafted horror stories, you’d be well advised to get hold of a copy of ‘Horror Hospital’. You’ll never see a visit to A&E in the same light again.

Patrick Mahon

February 2015

(pub: Constable Robinson. 343 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4721-1066-4)

check out websites: www.constablerobinson.com and www.stephenjoneseditor.com

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