The four never-before-published novellas in this collection represent horror master King at his finest, using the weird and uncanny to riff on mortality, the price of creativity, and the unpredictable consequences of material attachments. A teenager discovers that a dead friend’s cell phone, which was buried with the body, still communicates from beyond the grave in “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” which reads like a Twilight Zone episode infused with an EC Comics vibe. In the profoundly moving “The Life of Chuck,” a series of apocalyptic incidents bear out one character’s claim that “when a man or a woman dies, a whole world falls to ruin.” “Rat” sees a frustrated writer strike a Faustian bargain to complete his novel, and in the title story, private investigator Holly Gibney, the recurring heroine of King’s Bill Hodges trilogy and The Outsider, faces off against a ghoulish television newscaster who vampirically feeds off the anguish he provokes in his audience by covering horrific tragedies. King clearly loves his characters, and the care with which he develops their personalities draws the reader ineluctably into their deeply unsettling experiences. This excellent collection delivers exactly the kind of bravura storytelling King’s readers expect. Agent: Chuck Verrill, Darhansoff & Verrill. (May)
This collection of four novellas by King (Mr. Mercedes; The Institution) is a new outing with old friends, continuing the Bill Hodges and Outsider universe. In "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," eight-year-old Craig, a prodigious reader, is hired to read to Mr. Harrigan. A bond grows between the child and the octogenarian. When his friend dies, Craig mourns the loss and talks to his friend as though he were still alive. What if Mr. Harrigan responds? "The Life of Chuck" has middle school teacher Marty Anderson experiencing a rough day: Traffic is crazy, the likeness of some guy named Chuck is appearing everywhere, and the world is ending. In the title story, Holly Gibney, of the Finders Keepers agency (and Bill Hodges universe), investigates the bombing of a middle school. The fourth story, "Rat," is that of author Drew, who is broadsided by an idea for a novel; all he has to do is get it on paper. His last three novels were never finished. Will he complete this one, and what will it cost him? VERDICT Longtime readers and new King fans alike will love the fresh tales in this wonderful collection. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/19.]—Elizabeth Masterson, Mecklenburg Cty. Jail Lib., Charlotte, NC
The master of supernatural disaster returns with four horror-laced novellas.
The protagonist of the title story, Holly Gibney, is by King’s own admission one of his most beloved characters, a “quirky walk-on” who quickly found herself at the center of some very unpleasant goings-on in End of Watch, Mr. Mercedes, and The Outsider. The insect-licious proceedings of the last are revisited, most yuckily, while some of King’s favorite conceits turn up: What happens if the dead are never really dead but instead show up generation after generation, occupying different bodies but most certainly exercising their same old mean-spirited voodoo? It won’t please TV journalists to know that the shape-shifting bad guys in that title story just happen to be on-the-ground reporters who turn up at very ugly disasters—and even cause them, albeit many decades apart. Think Jack Torrance in that photo at the end of The Shining, and you’ve got the general idea. “Only a coincidence, Holly thinks, but a chill shivers through her just the same,” King writes, “and once again she thinks of how there may be forces in this world moving people as they will, like men (and women) on a chessboard.” In the careful-what-you-wish-for department, Rat is one of those meta-referential things King enjoys: There are the usual hallucinatory doings, a destiny-altering rodent, and of course a writer protagonist who makes a deal with the devil for success that he thinks will outsmart the fates. No such luck, of course. Perhaps the most troubling story is the first, which may cause iPhone owners to rethink their purchases. King has gone a far piece from the killer clowns and vampires of old, with his monsters and monstrosities taking on far more quotidian forms—which makes them all the scarier.
Vintage King: a pleasure for his many fans and not a bad place to start if you’re new to him.
As classic as [King’s] novels are, his shorter fiction has been just as gripping over the years...The true highlight of the collection is the phenomenal ‘The Life of Chuck’...Just when you think things are getting really weird, it all snaps together like an epiphany and you get to the gorgeous meat of the matter...Sure, King still owns the fright business like none other, but the iconic author will keep you up late at night engrossed in four tales about our dreams and our frailties.”
—Brian Truitt, USA Today
“IF IT BLEEDS contains four new, exceptionally compelling novellas that reaffirm [King’s] mastery of the form...the mid-length narrative suits his talents particularly well, permitting a degree of expansiveness while maintaining a controlled, disciplined approach to the material at hand. The results are stories that cover a surprising amount of emotional territory but can still be read in a sitting...a collection filled with startling, sometimes unsettling pleasures. In IF IT BLEEDS, King continues to draw from a rich and varied reservoir of stories. At its best, his work remains deeply empathetic and compulsively readable. May the reservoir never run dry.”
—William Sheehan, The Washington Post
“[These stories] — about the seductions and corruptions of technology, the extremes of beauty and depravity in even the most ordinary life, the workings of a universe we can never entirely understand — were somehow exactly what I wanted to read right now... ‘The Life of Chuck’ is one of the oddest, most affecting stories I have read in a very long time...As sirens blare outside my Brooklyn window and the headlines grow more apocalyptic by the day, I might start working my way through King’s backlist. He’s good company in the dark.”
—Ruth Franklin, The New York Times Book Review
"While this story collection had been percolating inside of Mr. King for years prior to its release, it is striking — sometimes eerily so — how necessary these stories feel today. 'If It Bleeds' continues the increasingly optimistic bent the author has displayed over the past decade, while still bearing those nightmarish touches at which he excels. When so much is uncertain, there’s no small amount of comfort to be found in these tales — and right now, comfort, in whatever form we can find it, is what we all need."
—Wendeline O. Wright, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"There’s an oddly meta quality to reading Stephen King’s new collection, IF IT BLEEDS, in the era of COVID-19. In addition to the expected supernatural horror themes, the four novellas are undergirded, to great effect, with more earthbound fears: the uncertainty of old age and approaching death; the vampiric nature of the 24-hour news cycle feeding the public’s appetite for pain and disaster; the claustrophobia of being alone and ill during isolating weather; signs of the end times that would be disturbingly recognizable to even the most committed optimist...The jewel in the crown of IF IT BLEEDS, however, is the titular novella...King's choice to have an Outsider masquerading as a television reporter makes for an adroit vehicle to showcase the trite nature of evil."
—Michael Rowe, The Boston Globe
“When you’re stuck at home needing fresh reading material...“If It Bleeds” will hit the mark.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"King's four new novellas might be bite-sized, but they still shine with his brilliant ability to tingle our spines...King's genius is to temper his forays into the dark side of life with a sense of wonder about the world.”
“Suspenseful and chilling...This set of novellas is thought-provoking, terrifying, and, at times, outright charming, showcasing King’s breadth as a master storyteller...a powerful addition to his megapopular oeuvre.”
—Booklist, STARRED review
“The four never-before-published novellas in this collection represent horror master King at his finest, using the weird and uncanny to riff on mortality, the price of creativity, and the unpredictable consequences of material attachments...profoundly moving...King clearly loves his characters, and the care with which he develops their personalities draws the reader ineluctably into their deeply unsettling experiences. This excellent collection delivers exactly the kind of bravura storytelling King’s readers expect."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
“The master returns.”
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review