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RED PHONE BOX

A DARKLY MAGICAL STORY CYCLE

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A genre-bending collection of horror-fantasy short stories set in London, centering on a red phone booth, gateway to the netherworld. 

Suffering from insomnia due to her recently ended love affair, Amber sets off on a midnight stroll through London, imagining that her entire body is glowing. She returns to her apartment to find a new boyfriend who can’t comprehend why she doesn’t know him. What initially seems to be a loosely connected assortment of short stories is actually a short story cycle or composite novel. As the anthology progresses, characters and plotlines interweave. The introduction of the Anglesey Deer, an amulet carved out of one of the trees from the Roman massacre of Druids in Anglesey in A.D. 60, creates another unifying storyline. American professor Kelly David travels to England at the behest of Horace Vandenbussche, thinking her tenure will be guaranteed once she obtains this priceless artifact. Instead, she witnesses first his shape-shifting and then his murder. Her quest for the amulet may lead to her own demise, as well as that of several other characters. Particularly heart-rending are Francesca Burgon’s stories (“Phone Boxes Taste Bad” and “When the Phone Rings”), featuring young Margaret and her perhaps mentally ill, perhaps extremely focused mother, who totes around bags of evidence and makes phone calls to share her findings. The compelling Gloria Vandenbussche, despite her despair at being her father’s gofer, is transcendent in the stories in which she appears, particularly Tamsyn Kennedy’s “A Brief Transaction,” which neatly blends urban fantasy with chick lit. Occasionally disjointed due to the abundance of plotlines, characters and settings, the collection comprises 58 short stories by 29 different authors. Nonetheless, the anthology’s style works overall, a testament to skillful editing. A few of the storylines remain unresolved, leaving the door open for the promised Book 2. The quintessentially cheerful symbol of England, the red phone box, doesn’t hint at the dark materials contained here. This mix of horror, noir and urban fantasy plays with the boundaries of literary genre fiction.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0957627109

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ghostwoods Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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