A crackling, funny, and frightening horror story from a unique voice in genre lit.

NORMAL

After a futurist has a nervous breakdown in Rotterdam, he’s taken to a secret hospital in rural Oregon that may not be what it seems on the surface.

This is a fantastic digital-first novella by multimedium writer Ellis (Gun Machine, 2013, etc.) that will also be released in print. It follows up on Ellis’ previous digital FSG Original, Dead Pig Collector (2013). This book may be the perfect way to sample Ellis, drawing on his fascination with futurists and the threats imposed by ever faster technology and offering a story that employs his profane poetry to a degree that may inspire cackles from fans. The book’s protagonist is Adam Dearden, a brilliant man whose mind came apart following a confrontation in Namibia. He’s been secreted away to the “Normal Head Research Station,” a recovery facility for those like him. “He was a futurist,” Ellis writes. “They were all futurists. Everyone here gazed into the abyss for a living. Do it long enough, and the abyss would gaze back into you.” They’re a divided bunch: on one side, foresight strategists who work for charities, nonprofits, and universities (glass half full). On the other, strategic forecasters, the spooks who think all the water has dried up and the glass is shattered. Some patients yearn to go to “staging,” a promise of a sort of halfway house to transition the mad geniuses back into society. After one of his fellow patients disappears under a mass of writhing black insects, the inmates are warned that government investigators are coming to get to the bottom of things. Adam must form a ragtag alliance with his fellow prisoners, who include an urbanist with a little cannibalism challenge, a mad economist, and other allies who gazed too long into the abyss. Ellis even manages to bring his damaged hero to an epiphany, although it’s one that will scare the living hell out of anybody who truly ponders what the world is becoming.

A crackling, funny, and frightening horror story from a unique voice in genre lit.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-53497-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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