Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bestselling horror writer Saul's 18th novel features a mad entomologist and serial killer whose latest experiment causes insects to control the mind of a teenage girl, forcing her to implant the bugs into other innocent teens. (Aug.)
This novel may be the ultimate stomach turner. Saul follows his standard theme: a group of dangerous young people must be destroyed for the world to be safe. The story begins with Julie falling victim to a strain of bees whose venom is unusually toxic. The man who developed the bees, and their antitoxin, is a serial killer. Not wanting Julie to survive, he switches the antitoxin for an untried substance that turns out to be a new species of insect that requires a mammalian host for survival. Julie survives, infested with internal insects, and spews them forth to infect her friends. The horror of her condition is thoroughly detailed. Saul also gives us a splendidly creepy bug-infested house of horrors and a fitting revenge for the villain. Not for the weak of stomach, but essential for any library that has Saul fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/94.]-Marylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, Ia.
Once again, it's evil-science time with John Saul and his usual cast of kid victims. Karen Spellman and her daughters Julie, 16, and Molly, 9, move from L.A. back to the bucolic community in which Karen grew up. For with the girls' father years dead, Karen has remet and decided to marry farmer Russell Owen. Things start going awry right away: at Karen and Russell's home wedding, Molly is stung by a bee, and although it's happened before with no untoward results, this time she nearly dies. More accidents with bees and other insects occur--not least to Julie--and while local entomologist Carl Henderson, who works for the agricultural branch of a huge chemical company, is able to provide seemingly effective antivenins when folks react badly to bites, he also occasionally behaves most peculiarly. Besides, as local head cop Mark Shannon knows, more strange stuff has been happening, such as the disappearance of teen runaway Dawn Sanderson. Could Carl be behind it all? As Bugs Bunny used to say--ears cocked, brows arching off his face, mouth bowed into a leer of epic proportions--"Hmmmmmmmmmmm, COULD beeee!" Routine cheapo sf-horror-thriller fare from a reliable vendor who's been better.
From the Publisher
“INTENSE ACTION . . . THE SORT OF OLD-FASHIONED TERRORS THAT HAVE MADE HIM THE MOST CONSISTENTLY BESTSELLING HORROR WRITER NEXT TO KING AND KOONTZ.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Read an Excerpt
Caroline Evans’s dream was not a nightmare, and as it began
evaporating into the morning light, she tried to cling to it,
wanting nothing more than to retreat into the warm, sweet bliss
of sleep where the joy and rapture of the dream and the reality
of her life were one and the same.
Even now she could feel Brad’s arms around her, feel his
warm breath on her cheek, feel his gentle fingers caressing her
skin. But none of the sensations were as sharp and perfect as
they had been a few moments ago, and her moan—a moan that
had begun in anticipation of ecstasy but which had already
devolved into nothing more than an expression of pain and
frustration—drove the last vestiges of the dream from her consciousness.
The arms that a moment ago had held her in comfort were
suddenly a constricting tangle of sheets, and the heat of his
breath on her cheek faded into nothing more than the weak
warmth of a few rays of sunlight that had managed to penetrate
the blinds covering the bedroom window.
Only the fingers touching her back were real, but they were
not those of her husband leading her into a morning of slow
lovemaking, but of her eleven-year-old son prodding her to get
out of bed.
“It’s almost nine,” Ryan complained. “I’m gonna be late for
Caroline rolled over, the image of her husband rising in her
memory as she gazed at her son.
The same soft brown eyes, the same unruly shock of brown
hair, the same perfectly chiseled features, though Ryan’s had
not quite emerged from the softness of boyhood into the perfectly
defined angles and planes that had always made every-one—
men and women alike—look twice whenever Brad
entered a room.
Had the person who killed him looked twice? Had he looked
even once? Had he even cared? Probably not—all he’d want-ed
was Brad’s wallet and watch, and he’d gone about it in the
most efficient method possible, coming up behind Brad, slipping
an arm around his neck, and then using his other hand to
shove Brad’s head hard to the left, ripping vertebrae apart and
crushing his spinal cord.
Maybe she shouldn’t have gone to the morgue that day,
shouldn’t have looked at Brad’s body lying on the cold metal
of the drawer, shouldn’t have let herself see death in his face.
Caroline shuddered at the memory, struggling to banish it.
But she could never rid herself of that last image she had of her
husband, an image that would remain seared in her memory
until the day she died.
There were plenty of other people who could have identified
him at the morgue. Any one of the partners in his law firm
could have done it, or any of their friends. But she had insisted
on going herself, certain that it was a mistake, that it hadn’t
been Brad at all who’d been mugged in the park.
A terrible cold seized her as the memory of that evening last
fall came over her. When Brad had gone out for his run around
part of the lake and through the Ramble she’d worried that it
was too dark. But he’d insisted that a good run might help him
get over the jumpiness that had come over him in the last couple
of weeks. She’d been helping Laurie with her math homework
and barely responded to Brad’s quick kiss before he’d
Hardly even nodded an acknowledgment of what turned out
to be his last words: “Love you.”
The words kept echoing through her mind six hours later
when she’d gazed numbly down at the face that was so utterly
expressionless as to be almost unrecognizable. Love you . . . love
you . . . love you . . . “I love you, too,” she whispered, her vision
mercifully blurred by the tears in her eyes. But in the months
that had passed since that night more than half a year ago, her
tears had all but dried up. Sometimes they still came, sneaking
up on her late at night when she was alone in bed, trying to fall
asleep, trying to escape into the dream in which Brad was still
alive, and neither the tears nor the anger were a part of her life.
Caroline wasn’t quite sure when the anger had begun to
creep up on her.
Not at the funeral, where she’d sat with her arms holding her
children close. Maybe at the burial, where she’d stood clutching
their hands in the fading afternoon light as if they, too,
might disappear into the grave that had swallowed up her husband.
That was when she’d first realized that Brad must have
known he’d be alone in total darkness by the time he finished
his run around the lake. And both of them knew how dangerous
the park was after dark. Why had he gone? Why had he
risked it? But she knew the answer to those questions, too.
Even if he’d thought about it, he’d have finished his run. That
was one of the things she loved about him, that he always finished
whatever he started.
Books he didn’t like, but finished anyway.
Rocks that looked easy to climb, but turned out to be almost
impossible to scale. Almost, but not quite.
“Well, why couldn’t you have quit just once?” she’d whispered
as she peered out into the darkness of that evening four
days after he’d died. “Why couldn’t you just once have said,
‘This is really stupid,’ and turned around and come home?”
But he hadn’t, and she knew that even if the thought had
occurred to him, he still would have finished what he set out to
do. That was when anger had first begun to temper her grief,
and though the anger brought guilt along with it, she also knew
that it was the anger rather than the grief that had let her keep
functioning during those first terrible weeks after her life had
been torn apart. Now, more than half a year later, the anger was
finally beginning to give way to something else, something she
couldn’t yet quite identify. The first shock of Brad’s death was
over. The turmoil of emotions—first the numbness brought on
by the shock of his death, followed by the grief, then the
anger—was finally starting to settle down. As each new day
had crept inexorably by, she had slowly begun to deal with the
new reality of her life. She was by herself now, with two children
to raise, and no matter how much she might sometimes
wish she could just disappear into the same grave in which
Brad now lay, she also knew she loved her children every bit
as much as she had loved their father.
No matter how she felt, their lives would go on, and so
would hers. So she’d gone back to work at the antique shop,
and done her best to help her children begin healing from the
wounds the loss of their father had caused. There had been just
enough money in their savings account to keep them afloat for
a few months, but last week she had withdrawn the last of it,
and next week the rent was due. Her financial resources had
sunk even lower than those of her emotions.
“Mom?” she heard Laurie calling from the kitchen. “Is there
any more maple syrup?”
Sitting up and untangling herself from the sheets—and the
turmoil of her own emotions as well—Caroline shooed her son
out of the room. “Go tell your sister to look on the second shelf
in the pantry. There should be one more bottle. And you’re not
going to be late for baseball practice. I promise.”
As Ryan skittered out of the room, already yelling to his sister,
Caroline got out of bed, opened the blinds, and looked out
at the day. As the smell of Laurie’s waffles filled her nostrils
and the brilliant light of a spring Saturday flooded the room,
Caroline shook off the vestiges of the previous night’s dream.
“We’re going to be all right,” she told herself.
She only wished she felt as certain as the words sounded.
From the Paperback edition.