A wickedly entertaining but also grotesque teen nightmare that’s pretty much Stranger Things meets Rogue One.

THE LOOP

Weirdness invades a small Oregon town as a government experiment gone wrong escapes containment.

Where to start with the pop-culture influences that erupt in this second novel by Johnson, author of the novel Skullcrack City (2015) and the story collection Entropy in Bloom (2017)? It opens with a Goonies/Super 8 vibe: There's a bunch of high school misfits led by Lucy, a Peruvian adoptee whose closest friend is “Bucket” Marwani, whose Pakistani heritage makes him another brown kid targeted for abuse by their classmates. The nightmarish scenario goes all Stephen King’s Cell when one of the kids’ classmates goes berserk and kills a teacher before perishing himself. In the meantime, we’re getting broadcasts from the Nightwatchman, a self-styled radio shock jock pulling the curtain back on the utter weirdness erupting in Turner Falls, Oregon, á la Welcome to Night Vale. When things really kick off, it looks like a modernization of the townies-versus–⁠rich-kids trope until the whole thing goes to hell and Lucy and her posse are just fighting for their lives. If you’re into this kind of thing, there are some carrots, like Lucy having her first kiss, which is kind of sweet, but as our heroes descend into the (inevitably) human-made nightmare, it gets pretty grotesque. Is there a secret laboratory? Check—in the supersecret IMTECH facility near our little village of idiots—making something that has gotten completely out of control. Lucy is a fierce protagonist, but from this point it evolves into a wetwork nightmare straight out of Chuck Wendig’s daydreams. There’s some prescient dark humor here, too: “Shoot, man. Maybe. That’s usually how it goes, right? But I don’t know about this situation. The whole city is on fire, man. I don’t think these guys are checking bank balances before they start murdering people. Could be the old rules, rich, poor, none of it means much anymore.”

A wickedly entertaining but also grotesque teen nightmare that’s pretty much Stranger Things meets Rogue One.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5429-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 43

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more