A supernatural comic caper that reads like one of the late Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder novels sprinkled with some fairy...

THE EVERYTHING BOX

A thief just out of prison is recruited to steal a powerful magical talisman.

Kadrey (Killing Pretty, 2015, etc.) takes a break from his popular Sandman Slim series to offer a stand-alone horror-comedy that pulls heavily from all manner of genres and throws in everything but the kitchen sink. The novel opens 4,000 years ago on an angel, Qaphsiel, who’s normally in charge of office supplies for the heavenly host but is on a quick mission to Earth when he loses the titular MacGuffin. Back in the present day, Charlie “Coop” Cooper is using his light-fingered talents and a talkative poltergeist to steal some documents when he’s busted by the LAPD’s Criminal Thaumaturgy squad. After a quick stint in the pokey, Coop hooks back up with his buddy Morty Ramsey, who’s been approached with a pricey breaking and entering job that could net them hundreds of thousands of dollars. An enigmatic client named Mr. Babylon wants to hire Coop to steal a family heirloom from a rival, but he has his doubts about Coop’s abilities. “I have something you don’t, Mr. Babylon,” Coop explains. “Another ability. A rare one. I’m immune to magic. Conjury, enchantments, fascinations, mesmerisms, mind reading, and ladies sawed in half. The whole bit.” From here, the book explodes into an overstuffed heist movie complete with a band of duplicitous cronies, two bickering agents from the government's Department of Peculiar Science, a hard-traveling murderer cut from the same cloth as Cormac McCarthy’s Anton Chigurh, and a pair of inept cults that are mostly around for comic relief. It’s all a bit much to take in, and Kadrey offers a lot of stylistic similarities to Gaiman and Pratchett’s superior Good Omens (2009). Nevertheless, there’s definitely an audience for this kind of madcap supernatural comedy, and it’s likely to find those readers pretty handily.

A supernatural comic caper that reads like one of the late Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder novels sprinkled with some fairy dust.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238954-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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