THE GUNSLINGER (THE DARK TOWER, BOOK 1)

Begun by King while at college in 1970; serialized episodically in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1978-1981; printed in limited-editon hardcover, 1982: this King novelty at last achieves mass publication. King fans will find little to celebrate, however, in the derivative portentousness of this first volume in a threatened 3000-page epic western set in a blighted future world. Warmed-over sauce from Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti-western films is splashed all over this doughy tale. There's the gunslinger of the title, tall, strong and silent, and his evil nemesis, "the man in black"; there's the gunslinger's quest to track down and slay that villain; and there are the dust-swept towns he rides through, the lost boy he adopts as a sidekick, and the saloon-keeping wench he beds. The spice in this tired sauce, however, is pure King—fantastic and grandiose. For, as King reveals bit by bit, often in flashbacks, the man in black is a sorceror, able even to raise the dead, and the gunslinger the last of an aristocratic caste, keepers of "the High Speech" and of the few guns left in this nearly machineless, presumably post-nuclear-holocaust world. Moreover, bizarre turns sprout here like weeds—spellbound by the man in black, an entire town turns on the gunslinger, believing him the Antichrist and forcing him to massacre all souls; farther down the road, a band of "Slow Mutants" (irradiated humans?) attacks—and, as is King's wont, the central character is so obsessed as to brook no opposition, eventually sacrificing the little's boy's life to stay on the heels of his quarry. What's all this futuristic neo-Wagnerian posturing about? Something to do with a debt of honor, of course, vengeance for the death of the gunslinger's father and the dishonoring of his mother; and something to do with Tarot-wrapped pseudo-mystical prattle wherein beyond the gunslinger's yearning for the man in black lies his lust for "the Dark Tower"—where, as King concludes, the gunslinger "would some day come at dusk and approach, winding his horn, to do some unimaginable final battle." Heavy, real heavy—as sales undoubtedly will be too.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 1988

ISBN: 0452284694

Page Count: 290

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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