NIGHT VISIONS 5

Seven old-fashioned, mostly dead-weight horror tales by three high-profde monster-mongers; only Martin's closing—and rousing—werewolf novella saves this collection from the Hall of Shame. In his opening three contributions, King again proves that the price of being prolific is occasional mediocrity. Kicking things off is "The Reploids," which Douglas Winter in his unctuous introduction calls "a virtual pastiche of the ironic, science fictional horror of the 1950's"; translate that to mean "tired"—as here King replays the soggy notion of someone from an alternate universe popping into ours (on the Johnny Carson show). Bad taste undermines his "Sneakers," unscary business about a haunted public toilet, and "Dedication," a truly repulsive tale of witchcraft that hinges on the eating of semen. Simmons, winner of a 1986 World Fantasy Award (for his first novel, The Song of Kali), fares little better with: "Mestastisis"—more ashes-in-the-mouth stuff, this about the real cause of cancer ("cancer vampires" that grow tumors inside people as a food supply); "Vanni Fucci is Alive and Well and Living in Hell"—flat satire in which an irate soul from Hell takes a bow on an evangelical talk-show; and "Iverson's Pits," an atmospheric but turgid period piece wherein Civil War vets fight their last battle on the blood-soaked and evil-drenched fields of Gettysburg. Thankfully, there's a pot of gold at the end of this muddy rainbow: Martin's "The Skin Trade," the longest entry here, a jet-powered, marvelously inventive and suspenseful tale brightened by flashes of humor and of true terror—about a female P.I., her werewolf pal, and their pursuit of a grim beast who's slaying and flaying victims in a gothic urban jungle. Advice: King—stop pulling dusty stories out of your drawer; Simmons—write another novel; Martin—rest easy, you've come up with a scream of a werewolf story. And reader—a more sophisticated horror collection by far lurks in the forthcoming Prime Evil (p. 570).

Pub Date: July 1, 1988

ISBN: 0913165328

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Dark Harvest

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1988

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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