“If the system is mad, absurd, then it probably needs changing. But in trying to change the system, it protects itself by labelling you as mad.”
Set in 1984, at a time when political and social change is sweeping through Britain and the last Labour battle is soon to usher in a new economic order, Zombie Park follows the story of Roland Cauldron, who considers himself lucky to be starting a new career as a student psychiatric nurse, living and training on an old asylum in the outskirts of London.
But it’s not just his patients Roland has to worry about. He’s working under a management triumvirate led by the psychopathic Interim Chief Executive Morten Slaney, the militaristic Nursing Manager Fitzpatrick and the self-serving Doctor Caldwell, who are only concerned with preserving the reputation of the institution. Roland knows he’s in trouble with the management and his fears are elevated when he meets Annie Buchanan, a former staff member who confronted the sinister Slaney and ended up as a patient on the ward.
When Roland meets fellow student Sophie Smith, she challenges him to prove he’s not just all talk and no action, and they team up to take on the management regime. But Roland falls in love with Sophie and this fuses the mix of the personal and political in the closed world of the surreal sanctuary. Roland’s experiences are punctuated by an eclectic series of tragi-comic events. As he copes with the extremes of institutionalised mental illness, he vacillates between helplessness and anger to affect any meaningful change. The easy solution is to self-medicate with his colleagues the Pothead Pixies. Eventually, facing defeat in love and politics, Roland is left abandoned, betrayed and fighting for his life, with only the enigmatic patient Alan Starr to guide and save him from himself.
Inspired by Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, Simon Marlowe’s debut novel will appeal to readers who enjoy black comedy and political fiction. It will also appeal to fans of the American Horror Story: Asylum series.