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Touching down on top of Hospital at 19:59, a young boy and an unconscious man are lifted from the air ambulance by the Trauma Team. The Trauma Team successfully saves the man while the boy falls unconscious. Awaking to an empty room, the boy finds himself naked and lonely and with an overwhelming desire to go home to see his mother. Climbing out of bed, he tries to find some clothes and a way back to his mother.
Despite working closely with the Trauma Team, Gemma Swallow is still finding her new work colleagues a little weird and very distant, even the dishy surgeon Mr John Steele. How is she ever going to approach him, especially given his seemingly close friendship and working relationship with Sarah Felt?
Meanwhile, elsewhere, things are starting to get under way that will lead to a very busy, very interesting night in Hospital. When several different, but important events coincide at midnight, things turn from interesting to plain weird...
Right from the start, Hospital gives the impression that it's going to build into something impressive but crucially, stays a little ambiguous as to what this might be. The author draws you in to the world of Hospital quite easily. The anticipation of what might unfold is obviously a big factor in pulling you in, but also the story doesn't hang around and using the unnamed boy as the guide, the reader is taken around Hospital where many of the characters are introduced.
Interestingly, every character with a part to play during the strange night in Hospital has a name (if you count 'The Virgin' and 'Rubber Nurse' as names, that is) with the exception of the unconscious man and the boy. It doesn't have a huge bearing on the outcome or my enjoyment of the book, but it's an odd little foible nonetheless.
The reasonably large cast of named characters doesn't confuse matters as I thought that it might, but by the same token, it could easily have been trimmed without losing anything in the process. The tale is quick to get going once the young boy regains consciousness and seeks his escape from Hospital
For the most part I found Hospital to be an enjoyable read. The story is quick to get up to speed and keeps you interested by dropping little hints at what might follow. It's easy to read and is well paced.
There are lots of ideas, most of them weird, floating around the book but crucially, no real substance to bind them all together to make sense of the weirdness or explain it. This never happens and to compound matters, there are several clues (the fact that Rubber Nurse exists, for starters) that Hospital is not exactly the most normal place on the planet at the best of times. There's nothing at all to explain if the mysterious mist is related to the devil worshipping or why the extraordinary healing ability shown by those inside Hospital is not manifested in the boy or the unconscious man.
It was only when the climax approached and I realised that there was probably going to be no real resolution to any of the weirdness that had been going on that my enjoyment of the book started to fade. It's a shame because the ideas contained within have huge potential individually if they're carried through to a conclusion and I thought the whole thing was quite unique. As it stands, I feel that Hospital is a mass of good, if incomplete, ideas that have been shoved together in the hope that they may gel together to become more than the sum of their parts and it doesn't quite pull that off for me.
While I don't need to have every single detail explained to me or every storyline closed neatly when reading fiction, I found it hard to get around the multitude of unexplained loose ends and seemingly unconnected plot strands but if that's something that won't bother you, then there's definite enjoyment to be gained from Hospital.
When a book is as unique as this seems to be, then it's hard to find anything to measure it against, however, I think comparisons can be drawn with Alex Garland's 'The Coma' which also seems to concentrate more on the style of the piece.
This is the most extreme and extraordinary read of the year. From one of Britain's most brilliantly talented younger writers comes a novel you will never forget. Savagely funny and searingly original, Hospital is a journey to hell and back. Hospital - get well soon? Yeah, right.