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DROWNING

A taut, gripping yarn. Not for the weak-kneed.

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A spectacular aviation thriller that readers will be relieved to know is fiction.

Just off the coast of Hawaii, Flight 1421’s engine explodes minutes after takeoff with 99 souls aboard. With no controls, “the plane was dead in the air,” and the pilot makes an emergency landing into the Pacific Ocean, with inevitable but disastrous results. Although some people perish on impact, “the worst was yet to come.” The survivors are left with a Hobson’s choice: escape the airplane and hope the burning jet fuel on the ocean’s surface doesn't kill them or stay in the fuselage and probably drown when it sinks and is crushed by the depths. Twelve passengers and crew remain alive in the Airbus, including Will Kent and his 11-year-old daughter, Shannon. On a nearby island, Will’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Chris learns about the crash and decides to help in the rescue efforts. By an amazing coincidence, she just happens to have all the engineering, scuba diving, and spot-welding chops to complement her fierce Mama Bear personality. Meanwhile, Will convinces a few passengers to stay inside the sinking fuselage as they desperately look for ways to keep the structure watertight. In an important subplot, Will and Chris separately reflect on what had gone so terribly wrong in their family: Their older daughter, Annie, had died years before, and neither parent knows how to cope with that pain. Now Chris faces still more losses: her family, the remaining passengers and crew, and perhaps her own life. The wrecked Airbus is balanced on the precipice of a cliff 200 feet below the surface, close to the limits of where anyone can come to help. If it falls off the edge, all hope is lost. If readers can get past a few hair-raising and cringeworthy early scenes, they'll find themselves engrossed in this darned good thriller.

A taut, gripping yarn. Not for the weak-kneed.

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-982177-91-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

HOLLY

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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