A blockbuster portrayal of the zombie apocalypse and a fitting tribute to the genre’s imaginative progenitor.

THE LIVING DEAD

The last testament of the legendary filmmaker is a sprawling novel about the zombie apocalypse that dwarfs even his classic movie cycle.

Though this long-simmering novel was unfinished when Romero died in 2017, his estate turned its completion over to Kraus, an adept novelist and collaborator with Guillermo Del Toro. The result is a satisfying, terrifying chronicle of the zombie crisis that includes explosive set pieces and moving character beats in equal measure. Just before Halloween, the first cadaver appears in the lab of San Diego medical examiners Luis Acocella and Charlie Rutkowski, asking the pair “Shall we dance?” even as Charlie holds his heart in her hands. In rural Missouri, teenager Greer Morgan soon learns society’s rules have been drastically altered by the rise of the dead. The growing severity of the crisis is seen at a national television studio in Atlanta, where conceited anchor Chuck Corso finds the danger growing closer and closer. On the aircraft carrier USS Olympia, helmsman Karl Nishimura and pilot Jenny Pagán join forces when they’re trapped between the resurrected dead and the zealous chaplain convinced God wants him to lead a death cult. These harrowing survival stories are marked by cinematic spectacles—a bloody escape by jet fighter, a school shooting, and fragments told from the zombies’ point of view are among the memorable episodes—but Kraus injects a dramatic dose of human pathos into the mix as characters bond, fight for survival, and frequently die so that others may live. By the time these disparate characters converge in the last act after a significant time jump, readers will know them so well that each loss takes on more emotional weight. Less soapy than The Walking Dead and less inventive than Max Brooks’ World War Z, it’s still a spectacular horror epic laden with Romero’s signature shocks and censures of societal ills.

A blockbuster portrayal of the zombie apocalypse and a fitting tribute to the genre’s imaginative progenitor.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30512-1

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

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IF IT BLEEDS

The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas.

The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King’s own admission one of his most beloved characters, a “quirky walk-on” who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King’s favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won’t please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you’ve got the general idea. “Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same,” King writes, “and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard.” In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier.

Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.

Pub Date: April 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3797-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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