SKELETON CREW

Twenty-some items, mostly collected from magazines, by America's most prolific living horror-master, including a doggerel called "Paranoid: A Chant" that sounds like an amazingly accurate parody of Absolutely Bob Dylan. King's fans—who must revel in his huffery-puffery space-filling—will find their favorite as peppery as ever. In each of these pieces, no matter how ineffective, King strikes upon some truly unsettling image that only he would have the persistence to uncover. In the most ambitious, a short novel called "The Mist," a Maine heatwave announces the coming of a living, bloodsucking, tentacle—filled white mist that eats up woods, radio stations, drugstores, and just plain brand-name folks who are trapped in a supermarket and fighting back with Raid insecticide and burning brooms dipped in lighter fluid. The horrormist is never explained, but one cannot avoid feeling that it is a self-punishing psychic projection of King's consumer society, which is mocked up from paste characters without a single breath of life in them. King sculpts these dummies with as much art as he has, but it is an art which has failed to deepen since Salem's Lot, his most carefully styled novel. King's shorter stories are more artful, but even so, judging them against each other is as hard as telling a Wheaties box from a Fruit Loops box by chewing on each. "Survivor Type" is a parody of survivor stories in which a drug-pushing surgeon is stranded on an island and—high on smack and low on food—forces himself to begin eating himself, starting with a cracked leg. In "The Word Processor of the Gods," the genie in a Wang begins fulfilling a writer's dreams by deleting him of his fat wife and clinker son and inserting him the wife and son he longs for—a lively conceit that King works to a warm, sentimental climax which avoids the strong, hard punch the reader asks for. His oldest story, "The Reaper's Image," written at age 18, tells of an ancient mirror which disappears people. The newest story, "The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet" (1983), is about a one-shot successful novelist who feeds his typewriter peanut butter and jelly because some elves called Fornits live on the keys and sprinkle gold dust (fornus) on his copy. Then his alcoholic editor starts to go mad as well in a folie a deux. So, bizarre little spellbinders, but more pulpy and concocted than truly driven in their bizarreness.

Pub Date: June 21, 1985

ISBN: 0451168615

Page Count: 530

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1985

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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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