Book Review: The Mall by S. L. Grey

The Mall by S. L. GreyA book about a shopping centre sounds boring. But one in which an alternate world is present behind the scenes, sounds intriguing. In this book, two people end up in an alternate world in which the shopping centre looks the same, but isn’t.

It’s a great story, even better if you love computer games, because it looks like the protagonists end up in one.

The Mall: What it is about

From “Dan works at a bookstore in a deadly dull shopping mall where nothing ever happens. He’s an angsty emo-kid who sells mid-list books to mid-list people for the minimum wage. He hates his job. Rhoda has dragged her babysitting charge to the mall so she can meet her dealer and score some coke. Now the kid’s run off, and she has two hours to find him. She hates her life.

Rhoda bullies Dan into helping her search, but as they explore the neon-lit corridors behind the mall, disturbing text messages lure them into the bowels of the building, where old mannequins are stored in grave-like piles and raw sewage drips off the ceiling. The only escape is down, and before long Dan and Rhoda are trapped in a service lift listening to head-splitting musak. Worst of all, the lift’s not stopping at the bottom floor.

Plummeting into the earth, Dan and Rhoda enter a sinister underworld that mirrors their worst fears. Forced to complete a series of twisted tasks to find their way out, they finally emerge into the brightly lit food court, sick with relief at the banal sight of people shopping and eating. But something feels different. Why are the shoppers all pumped full of silicone? Why are the shop assistants chained to their counters? And why is a cafe called McColon’s selling lumps of bleeding meat? Just when they think they’ve made it back to the mall, they realise their nightmare has only just begun…”

The Mall: What I thought

The book begins with Rhoda losing track of her charge, a young boy, while she’s off to score some coke. Rhoda is not a nice person but knows she will be in deep trouble if she doesn’t find the boy back. The other protagonist is Daniel. He’s a typical teenager with a low-wage job, not really interested in his work. He’s not particularly pleasant either, but he’s… normal.

Slowly we start to see some more positive characteristics in Rhoda and Daniel. Rhoda especially knows how to survive in a antagonistic world. And while Rhada and Daniel can’t stand each other, they learn to work together as they are the only people they can trust.

Their world gradually changes from normal to strange. While they try to explain everything they encounter in terms of the world they know, soon it becomes apparent that this is not sustainable and they have arrived in an alternative mall where the rules are different.

I loved the idea of this alternative mall. That was a fun idea. The mall seems quite pleasant, but underlying it there are scary things going on. Whether they can ever escape again (and how) is a question that kept me busy.

However, before we get to the alternative mall, there is a long journey through the service corridors, which became a bit tedious after a while. But in all, this is a great story. It seems almost like being in a dream, where everything looks normal, but on closer inspection, it’s not.

In the end, I liked and respected Rhoda a lot, which was amazing given how she entered the story. Warning: the book has a (sort of) open ending. The reader can probably fill in the blanks themselves, and it’s not really necessary to know any more than we get. But it was a bit disappointing when I got to the end. I would have loved to read on!

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 320

First published: 2011 (USA, this Dutch ebook edition, De Plaza, 2011)

I got this book: from a free download event by a Dutch literature website

Genre: science fiction

Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy it?


About Judith
I'm owner and editor at and We edit books and articles for independent writers.

14 Responses to Book Review: The Mall by S. L. Grey

  1. I have this waiting on my e-reader too, for some weird reason I was saving this to read during fall or winter. Glad you liked it, Judith, I also expect much from it.

  2. bibliosue says:

    On the surface this book does not sound like my cup of tea, but it does have an intriguing premise. Maybe one day …

  3. Tesney Ap says:

    I didn’t know so much could happen in the mall 🙂 It sounds like a fun read 🙂

  4. Charlie says:

    Oo, this sounds a bit like the older L J Smith releases, which I really enjoy. Interesting in that case that it’s a 2011 book.

  5. Chinoiseries says:

    This sounds like a perfect book for the R.I.P. VII challenge. Are you sure you are not participating? 😉 I think I’d enjoy this book, it’s got alternate reality in it and something alike a computer game, both elements that are a plus for me.

  6. This sounds intriguing, I will pop it on my maybe list 🙂

  7. Leslie says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard of this one. I usually enjoy alternate reality books.

  8. Athira says:

    This book does sound amazing! I love to read about alternate realities, both psychological and fantastical! I will have to get this book.

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