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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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 impressive beginning to what looks to be an ambitious series.

A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS

From the The Shadow Histories series , Vol. 1

An alternate history in the style of Naomi Novik and Susanna Clarke explores the French and Haitian revolutions with a magical twist.

This series opener has three plotlines. One follows Fina, a young enslaved woman who eventually joins with Toussaint Louverture and plays a pivotal role in the revolution against slavery and French rule in Saint-Domingue; the second follows Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre as they stir up the bloody Reign of Terror; and the third follows friends William Pitt and William Wilberforce as they rise in the ranks of the British Parliament. Parry is working with historical events and (mostly) real characters here, but this is a world where some people are born with magical abilities. Some can control the weather, some can manipulate metal, some can even control others through “mesmerism.” Some magicians have abilities that are wholly outlawed, like necromancy, and “vampires”—here meaning human magicians who can ingest blood to give themselves eternal life—have been wiped out altogether (supposedly). But who is allowed to use their magic? Only White aristocrats, of course, and with the aid of magic, White slave owners literally control slaves’ every movement, trapping them inside their minds. But enslaved people, like Fina, are finding ways to break free and fight back, and in Europe, politicians like Pitt and Wilberforce are working to abolish the slave trade and give people of all classes the right to use their gifts. Desmoulins and Robespierre start out fighting for freedom, but as the French Revolution descends into pure violence, it becomes clear that someone is manipulating Robespierre to cause as much death as possible. The story leans too heavily on dialogue, which, unfortunately, is not Parry’s strongest suit. Her real talent lies in immersive worldbuilding and meticulous plotting, and she does an expert job of setting the scene for the rest of the series while simultaneously constructing a story that’s engaging in its own right.

An impressive beginning to what looks to be an ambitious series.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-45908-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Redhook/Orbit

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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