A routine thriller in surgical gear.

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LIE STILL

The overly long tale of a young doctor who gets caught up with the wrong woman in an ER, and of his subsequent efforts to redeem himself.

Newcomer Farris, a pediatric anesthesiologist, draws on descriptions of actual case histories to orbit the story of Dr. Malcolm Ishmail, now back practicing medicine in Nebraska for the ungodly rate of $43/hour thanks to a kid in Arizona who coded blue on him in the worst way, and just kept getting bluer and bluer. Flashback to the “The Book of Mimi,” the story of how Ishmail got there. It all begins with Mimi, Ishmail’s supervising surgeon when he’s a lowly post-grad. Mimi is Dr. Fatale, untalented but gorgeous, and eager to get into Ishmail’s jockstrap once she knows he’s a sensitive soul. She takes him on “an extended tour of the Land of the Erotic.” And while adventuresome sex is a good thing for its vulnerability, adventuresome surgery is not—which is what happens when an aneurysm goes sour on Mimi, leading to an “unfortunate outcome,” and Ishmail, who was participating, gets the third degree from folks looking into the case. Eventually, Mimi admits to Ishmail that sometimes she gets lost in the brain. Mimi’s skill had always been an issue, but will Ishmail snitch on her in the name of ethics, and because he’s really destined for a more wholesome other? Sure he will. And when Mimi hears of it, the affair’s over and she pulls off the kid gloves with a letter accusing him of inappropriate advances and involvement with illegal drugs. Once that’s over, we start up with the narrative that will lead to the bad blue-coding: Might it turn out that it was somehow Mimi’s doing, and that this might all end with gunplay? Don’t rule it out. Or might Ishmail one day find a way to make a more reasonable living as a doctor? Farris announces early that he hopes to give a more accurate account of an emergency room than E.R., but, really, Lie Stillis just a variation on its theme, accurate or no.

A routine thriller in surgical gear.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-050554-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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