Superbly crafted, exhilarating futuristic tale.

PREONS: ALPHA

A man capable of transforming into a lethal beast seeks revenge against those responsible for his friends’ deaths in Stevens’ SF/thriller debut.

Ever since the attack on Earth seven years ago, former military strategist David has been training. He blames and has targeted certain individuals for the loss of two beloved friends. His current goal is to train with enigmatic Mr. Three, whom David can only contact by reaching Level 23 in arena combat. David rises in levels by winning arena matches on planet Xalapaz, as he’s a formidable fighter, even more so when he transforms into a Wendigo. He does, however, limit his transformations since he fears losing control. When a stranger offers to help David find one of his targets, he makes a deal, for which he’ll need to get his hands on Turnol, a dangerous substance. He and others form a ragtag crew that includes a swordsman in jailhouse isolation and a princess who’s been framed for murder. More often than not, David and his allies wind up in skirmishes that necessitate Wendigo transformations. All the while, David remains vengeance-minded, seemingly heedless of the innocent victims of his retribution. Stevens’ novel runs at full tilt and comprises copious planetary locales and backstory. He nevertheless grounds his electric narrative with familiar sights, as the myriad species that appear are predominantly anthropomorphized animals or animal hybrids. A Uanelin, for example, resembles “an elongated, four-meter-tall spider” while others sport tentacles, a scorpion tail, etc. The dense plot further entails Tempest, a group of soldiers on Earth that resists the regime of diabolical Enzo, who leads Hyperions (modified humans)—all have ties to David. As the story progresses, a few mysteries gradually unravel. But Stevens, who’s undoubtedly planning a follow-up, lets some questions linger.

Superbly crafted, exhilarating futuristic tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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