SHOCK RADIO

Masked, ultraviolent psychokiller pursues a Los Angeles radio shock-jock in a gory, gruesome tale that even Howard Stern would call sick. Clark (Evil Reincarnate, 1994) gives us the foulmouthed Aaron ``Sunset'' Scott, whose vulgar, pointlessly abusive on-the-air style (on KRAS-FM) has made him the city's most popular talk show host. He takes a call from an unidentified male who says he is the city's current torture-murderer. Unprintable expletives fly and, faster than Scott can play ``Misty'' for the killer, the caller has gained a moniker—the Phantom—and a purpose: to slash, burn, slice, and machine-gun his way into Scott's life. Brutal on the air, Scott (whose last name is really Steinberg) is tender only to his Jewish bubbe mother, Leah, an ancient waitress at a kosher delicatessen, and his super-shiksa-bombshell girlfriend, TV news reporter Samantha Collier. With as much subtlety as the Phantom's gesture of sending decapitated heads to Scott via FedEx, the author compares the hateful intent in his protagonist's verbal antagonism (which has something to do with growing up Jewish and never knowing who his father was) to the sociopathic rage that inspires the Phantom's nauseatingly inventive executions. We are led to believe that they're both creations of America's violence and celebrity- obsessed media. Trite oversimplifications, half-baked ruminations about masks and sincerity, hideous gore, a monotonous traipse through L.A. sex clubs, a couple of Armani-clad cops, plus a preposterous plot twist that connects the seemingly unkillable Phantom (he takes a slug in the knee and keeps running) to Scott's past, make for a kind of Ed Wood movie that even the hipsters won't watch: A nightmare that annoys instead of thrills. An overdose of gore, perverted family values, a pathetically loathsome antihero, and an L.A. setting that we've seen done much better elsewhere.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-85721-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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

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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

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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