From high fantasy to monsters to (literally) Hellboy, something for everyone who digs things that go bump in the night.

GROWING THINGS

AND OTHER STORIES

Nineteen eerie short stories from an award-winning writer who clearly embraces literary horror fully.

No lie: The Cabin at the End of the World (2018) was a tough read because it's terrifying in an unusual way, so it’s not a surprise that these frighteningly imaginative slices of horror are often far more chilling than their relatively mundane inspirations. Tremblay, like Joe Hill, Chuck Wendig, Richard Kadrey, and their ilk, is among the best in the literary business but chooses to play in a fairly specific genre, which is pretty much horror taken to another plane. Well-written, yes. But scary as hell, which is an equally admirable trick to accomplish. The title story shows up first, depicting a slow apocalypse via invasive plants not as a panorama but as one family’s bitter end. It also contains the book’s most frightening line: “There are no more stories.” Next is “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” portraying a junkie—SWIM is a cipher for “someone who isn’t me”—who’s trying to describe her addiction online even as some monster might be nearby. We get a couple of hardcore crime stories in “The Getaway,” in which a knockoff artist is struggling to escape his brother’s shadow, and “Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport,” which might as well have been a deleted scene from Scorsese’s The Departed. The best, most challenging stories are completely meta. “Notes for ‘The Barn in the Wild’ ” details the Blair Witch Project–esque journey of someone trying to get to the bottom of a story while “Something About Birds” finds a writer launching a zine delving into the mysterious history of a famous writer, all structured in unexpected ways. The rest are creepfests inspired by everything from Poe to Lovecraft to King. There’s a little fan service as well—a character who seems to be Karen Brissette from Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts waxes eloquent about the horror genre in the extended “Notes From the Dog Walkers” while the memorable Merry from the same earlier book anchors the equally creepy “The Thirteenth Temple.”

From high fantasy to monsters to (literally) Hellboy, something for everyone who digs things that go bump in the night.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267913-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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

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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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