Review by Ben Arzate
After a doctor commits a massacre at a hospital in Grenade City, causing it to be abandoned, a skeleton wearing a suit takes up residence in the building. Charlie, a young man who survived the massacre, decides he wants to learn to how to use guns to protect himself and his grandmother. Meanwhile, Hobart and Ruckus, two old locals, seek to exorcise the demons that have been causing havoc in Grenade City.
“What does evil hate, and fear, the most?
Hypothetical…maybe even rhetorical..-
Hospitalized Factory of Pain is probably best described as a horror comedy. There are lot of hilarious moments and even the central premise gives a lot of comic possibilities. In the world McGaha creates here, demons fear humiliation more than anything. This results in the book’s demon hunters, Hobart and Ruckus, mocking demons to fight them. The most memorable moment of this is when they dress a possessed person up in a platypus costume and deride the demon as being a dumb platypus until it leaves its host in sheer embarrassment.
Several plot threads run through this novel. The main one is about Charlie, a dim young man who wants to learn to defend himself after surviving a massacre by a doctor possessed by a demon in the hospital. He’s eventually taken under the demon hunter Hobart and Ruckus’s wings to assist them in fighting the demon’s terrorizing Grenade City. Along the way, he also learns about his unusual family.
McGaha does a good job of balancing the storylines for the most part. One section of the book is dedicated to exploring how Hobart and Ruckus became demon hunters. It’s an enjoyable story of the two rowdy boys standing up to a bully and learning in detention the school janitor is an expert on demons. It’s my favorite part of the book and could easily work as a separate short story.
It makes for an interesting contrast with the more surreal and fantastic Mr. Wrinkles storyline. Mr. Wrinkles is a skeleton in a suit who takes up residence in the hospital abandoned after a mass murder. There, he sets up a sort of factory where he tortures ghosts to create a substance which he bottles and sells. The reveal of why he does this is an interesting one.
McGaha likes to break the forth wall, and does so several times here. However, there are times where the fourth wall breaks don’t contribute much or feel out of place, especially at one point where one of the characters does so rather than the narration. It’s the only time a character in the story does so and it reads like a mistake rather than an intentional break in the fourth wall.
The ending, while fun to read, does move a little too fast. McGaha brings all the storylines together, but they feel like they’re collapsing in with how quick the pace becomes. It also makes some of the plot lines, such as Mr. Wrinkles’ reason for creating a substance from tortured ghost, seem like they could have used more development.
Despite that, Hospitalized Factory of Pain is an entertaining and hilarious horror comedy. McGaha has a way of mixing engaging, fast-paced storytelling, weird and creative ideas, and action in a way that reminds me a lot of Joe R. Lansdale. This is a novel well worth your time.