An original, psychedelic trip that takes too much pleasure in its characters’ vices and sufferings.

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Satan's Vertebrae

Elements of sci-fi, fantasy, thriller and noir play tug of war in the bizarre first entry of the Revealing Series.

By his name alone, the pseudonymous Natas Reverse gives readers a taste of what they’re about to experience. In That World, a world similar to ours (but comprised only of The Mainland, The Land Next Door, The Island and The East), Ford Montieth has graduated law school and joined his father’s wealthy firm. Following the accidental death of his parents shortly afterward, Ford and his pregnant wife, Lexxa, find themselves beneficiaries to one of the grandest fortunes on Earth. But the moat surrounding that empire is patrolled by sharks (in the form of drug dealers, murderous ex-cons, and crooked lawyers) all hoping for a bite. The couple seeks refuge on the Island, a world of mystics, miracles, tribal rituals and oneness with nature, whose inhabitants have enjoyed the philanthropy of Ford’s parents for years. When Ford is kidnapped, Lexxa and her newborn son must learn to assimilate with the Island’s people. Along the way, they encounter a truly diverse cast: Don Lefty Crease, a once-great boxer who fell from grace; Joseph and Carlos, native islanders and longtime friends of Ford’s parents; Clay Johnson, a slimy fight promoter; and Natas, a dog possessed of a fierce will to protect Lexxa’s family. Though there are some fascinating ideas at work, they’re too often saturated with gleeful depravity to be fully appreciated. As Lexxa’s son, Tyson, grows up to be a fearless boxer with a televised life—a poster boy for righting That World’s wrongs—the novel becomes an us-vs.-them vision of good against evil. “Together,” Carlos tells Lexxa, “you all will help keep the future peace and tranquility that is needed to bring the forces to a place of perfect balance once again.” But the good guys, often coked up, strung out or daydreaming about wild sex, come across as only slightly less unpleasant than their foes.

An original, psychedelic trip that takes too much pleasure in its characters’ vices and sufferings.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477621981

Page Count: 230

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2014

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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