An often involving but ultimately uneven sci-fi tale.

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The Children Who Time Lost

A sci-fi novel about the pressures of motherhood that transforms into an action thriller about an alien invasion.

In 2043, Rachel Harris is one of the only women who’s been able to give birth naturally in nearly 40 years. Worldwide infertility has made other women unable to conceive children of their own. But when Rachel’s child dies in an accident, her friends patronize her, her husband neglects her, and the world can’t stop talking about her. However, most people don’t know that government doctors have performed countless medical experiments on her in the search for an infertility cure; it’s taken a tremendous toll on her body and made her addicted to special medication. Meanwhile, as Rachel struggles to make sense of her loss, desperate couples play the Worldwide Lotto in hopes of winning a child from the future through the use of time travel. Rachel’s husband enters both their names and gets lucky on the first try, but soon, Rachel starts to uncover a conspiracy regarding the infertility problem. During her investigation, when she breaks the law by watching a video message from the future, the government threatens to sentence her husband, friends and possibly her new adopted son, Dylan, to death. Soon, she must return to the year 2013 to expose an alien menace and grapple with whether her convictions are worth sacrificing a second chance at motherhood. Amazon (The Corin Chronicles: Volume 1: The Light and the Dark, 2012, etc.) creates a intriguing character in Rachel, whose many misfortunes and desires will likely elicit readers’ sympathy and interest. But the engaging sci-fi premise, told from a woman’s perspective, eventually turns into a clichéd thriller, comprised of multiple action sequences, bland dialogue and supporting characters that lack Rachel’s complexity. That said, the book does have a resonating beginning, and its final chapters will surprise readers with a perplexing ending that may make them re-examine their ideas of motherhood and identity.

An often involving but ultimately uneven sci-fi tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0957624429

Page Count: 518

Publisher: Corinthians Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2013

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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