A twisty, timey-wimey roller coaster that morphs seamlessly from treasure hunt to conspiracy thriller to escape room.

RABBITS

The creator of the absorbing podcast Rabbits expands its mythology about an ancient and potentially deadly game.

Debut novelist Miles is known for creating hit podcasts, and while this peculiar augmentation doesn’t quite stick the landing, its premise is spellbinding. Its namesake podcast is a missing persons mystery, but this sidequel digs far deeper into the mysteries surrounding the clandestine alternative-reality game at its heart. The narrator identifies himself only as K, and he’s fascinated by any threads of information about the unnamed game, known to players colloquially as “Rabbits.” Egged on by a video-arcade owner named the Magician, K, his girlfriend, Chloe, and pal Baron search out more information about the game as things get more dangerous for all of them. There’s not much to go on: The first recorded modern instance of the game emerged in 1959; a fractured recording lays out a few more clues, and readers learn more from interstitial notes by Hazel, the winner of the eighth iteration. Things start getting serious when K is approached in the arcade by the alleged winner of the sixth game, Alan Scarpio, “a gazillionaire playboy who hangs out with Johnny Depp,” who nonchalantly says, “Something is wrong with Rabbits, and I need you to help me fix it.” It’s believed that the game’s 10th iteration has ended, and a new round seems to be beginning when players solve a series of obscure riddles, followed by a cryptic pronunciation: “The door is open.” While not as pop-culture inundated as Ready Player One, the book nods to eccentric influences like the urban legend Polybius, about a mind-altering arcade game; the novels Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; and, most tellingly, the cult movie Donnie Darko: “The Venn diagram of people interested in Rabbits and in Richard Kelly’s sci-fi thriller from 2001 is essentially just a circle.”

A twisty, timey-wimey roller coaster that morphs seamlessly from treasure hunt to conspiracy thriller to escape room.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984819-65-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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