Sick and twisted and troubling: Reading it is like stumbling on an old horror movie on TV in the middle of the night.

TINY NIGHTMARES

VERY SHORT STORIES OF HORROR

Forty works of flash fiction guaranteed to inspire nightmares.

Michel and Nieto collaborated previously on the story collection Tiny Crimes (2018), and here they apply the same basic guidelines—stripping stories down to about 1,500 words—and transpose them to the horror genre to fantastic effect. These are achingly brief but exquisitely crafted fragments of horror, some real, some imagined, and some incomplete. Divided into four sections—heads, hearts, limbs, and viscera—the book is delightfully unpredictable. In an elegant introduction, the editors observe, “Fear is also, for better or (more often) worse, the dark force that shapes society. Whether it’s politicians spreading hatred to scare up votes or the passive fear that keeps so many of us from risking change in our lives, our communities, and our world.” The opener, Meg Elison's “Guess,” features a protagonist who knows how everyone will die. In “Jane Death Theory #13,” Rion Amilcar Scott tackles the horrifying history of people of color who have died from gunshot wounds while arrested, cuffed, and secured in the back of a police car—annotated with real-life examples. There are a plethora of creepy creatures, such as the inhuman thing in “We’ve Been in Enough Places To Know” by Corey Farrenkopf; the demon that lives in the art exhibition in “The Blue Room” by Lena Valencia; or the puppy that morphs into a human baby in Hilary Leichter's “Doggy-Dog World.” Other horrors are psychological: In "Lone," by Jac Jemc, a woman who fears men makes a horrifying discovery while camping alone while in Kevin Nguyen's “The Unhaunting,” a man desperate to be visited by his dead wife is told by an amateur ghostbuster that she doesn’t want to see him. There are plenty of iconic frights here, among them vampires and werewolves, but it's surprising how very different all of these stories are, especially given their limits. Iván Parra Garcia's "The Resplendence of Disappearing" is translated from the original Spanish by Allana C. Noyes into spare, brittle English that recalls Cormac McCarthy. "Candy Boii" by Sam J. Miller delves into the dangers of social media, with graceful passages like “The real danger is how we open ourselves up. What we let in, when we believe ourselves to be safe." There's quite a lot of body horror, too, so squeamish readers are forewarned, but fans of innovative horror films like Get Out and Us will have a blast.

Sick and twisted and troubling: Reading it is like stumbling on an old horror movie on TV in the middle of the night.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948226-62-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Black Balloon Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY

Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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