Review: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

large_9781473672093Stephen King and Richard Chizmar revisit one of King’s most popular locales in Gwendy’s Button Box, a quietly haunting novella that satisfies on every single level but one: readers will wish it was longer.

We open in 1974 when 12-year-old Gwendy Peterson is offered a magic box by a man named Richard Farris, whom she meets at the top of one of the cliffside Suicide Stairs in Castle Rock, Maine. There are eight buttons on the box, and a lever that dispenses silver dollars and chocolate treats that Farris claims will help Gwendy lose the weight that has resulted in her nickname “Goodyear.” Despite some reservations — Gwendy’s been told by her parents not to talk to strangers, let alone accept gifts from them! — she takes the box from this mysterious man, then watches him disappear.

Sure enough, Gwendy begins to lose weight. But that’s not all that happens. It seems her luck, in totality, has changed for the better; indeed, she’s happier than she’s ever been. Until the day she presses one of the buttons, when everything changes, not just in that moment, but forevermore, when the temptation to use the box again ratchets up to an impossible degree.

Gwendy’s Button Box follows the titular character through high school and beyond, capturing the joy of childhood and adolescent friendships and first love. But it’s all cast under the dark shadow of the box and its power. The novella is a potent, engrossing blend of the traditional coming-of-age tale mixed with King’s trademark terrors. It’s riveting from beginning to end. King and Chizmar make quite the team. Let’s hope they meet again. Maybe with a higher page-count next time!

  • ISBN : 9781473672093
  • Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Imprint : Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
  • Publication date : June 2017
  • Bind : Hardback
  • Pages : 176

Review: Invasive by Chuck Wendig

9780062351579.jpgIf you were pitching your book idea to me — not sure why you would, but go with me on this, okay? —  and you proposed “killer ants,” I’d probably chuckle and say, “Good one,” then ask what your idea really is. Naturally you’d then clarify: “No, really: killer ants.” And I’d chortle (politely, obviously) and say, “Mate, that’s bloody audacious!” (but probably without the ‘mate’, or indeed the ‘bloody’) and wish you luck, but probably never read the thing, because the whole thing, conceptually, seems a little out there.

But here I am: just got done with Chuck Wendig’s Invasive, thanks to Jon Page’s recommendation, and I’ve revised my opinion. Killer ants are freakin’ scary, man. And they make for a rip-roaring, relentless techno-thriller; the kind that’ll leave you white-knuckled and goosebumped.

Hannah Stander, a consultant for the FBI specialising in apocalyptic scenarios and bleeding edge technology, is called to a crime scene at a lakeside cabin in upstate New York. It appears a genetically modified species of ant have been used as a murder weapon. Yup: these ants have been engineered to kill. And their genetic markers bear a striking resemblance to those employed by biotech billionaire Einar Geirsson, whose special projects operate in a secret lab off the coast of Hawaii. So Stander drops by to ask some questions. . . and all hell breaks lose.

Michael Crichton made these kinds of science-thrillers an art form. Nothing beats Jurassic Park for its sheer scope and thrills — but Invasive comes closer to matching Crichton”s brilliance than anything I’ve read over the last decade, simply because it’s not a pastiche; it’s laced with Wendig’s own ingenious spark. Invasive is packed with hairbreadth escapes, a tough-as-nails, likeable, but damaged protagonist, and the requisite commentary on the uses and abuses of science in this time of unparalleled discovery and invention. And it’s scary as all hell. You’ll feel the prickling sensation of ants crawling up your skin!

ISBN: 9780062351579
ISBN-10: 0062351575
Classification: Fiction & related items » Thriller / suspense » Political / legal thriller
Format: Hardback (229mm x 157mm x 30mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: HarperCollins
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
Publish Date: 1-Sep-2016
Country of Publication: United States

Review: The Wake by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

The WakeAs you’d expect from the winner of the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series, THE WAKE is a brilliant sci-fi epic. Highly innovative, both conceptually and in terms of its storytelling, it’s engrossing and thrilling from start to finish. As if we needed reminding, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy have underlined their status as two of the best creators in comics.

THE WAKE opens with marine biologist Lee Archer being approached by the Department of Homeland Security for help identifying a new species from the depths of the Arctic Circle. Like the best horror / survival stories, things immediately go awry, and Archer and a team of scientists are left to fend for themselves in an oilrig at the very bottom of the ocean. The opening chapters are told at breakneck pace, stylishly illustrated by Murphy, but four chapters in I began to wonder how much longer Snyder could maintain this plot thread: I feared a drawn-out tale of survival would eventually grow tedious. So what does Snyder do? He turns the story completely on its head, shifting perspectives and propelling the story into the future, when the world has been decimated by oceanic terrors and catastrophes, and mankind exists in factions. How does young Leeward’s story connect to Archer’s? That’s all part of the excitement – and THE WAKE is precisely that; exhilarating. We invented the term ‘unputdownable’ for stories like this.

Visually spectacular, THE WAKE is perhaps the exclamation mark on Snyder and Murphy’s career to date, but it would be foolish to think they’ve reached their apex. Both have shown an insatiable appetite to better themselves with each new work; an exciting prospect then, as THE WAKE is a blockbuster, in scope and execution, and demands your attention.