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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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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