“With his electric intensity, elegant prose, and eye for details both sleazy and tender, Shirley is one of the most original voices in fiction today.” –POPPY Z. BRITE
“Barely street-legal, Shirley’s Bosch-like visions mark him out as perhaps the closest thing contemporary American fantasy has to a genuine ‘outsider artist.’ ” –WILLIAM GIBSON, Author of Neuromancer
“John Shirley accomplishes things that most writers would not dare to attempt.” –BRUCE STERLING, Author of Schismatrix
“John Shirley is an adventurer, returning from dark and troubled regions with visionary tales to tell. I heartily recommend a journey with John Shirley at your side.” –CLIVE BARKER
"Shirley's latest begins horrifyingly--a top-secret government lab is destroyed by nasty, experimental nanotechnology--and just gets creepier, though more subtly so for quite a while, with just flashes of strange things in the woods and odd behavior by the involved populace. The comfortable town of Quiebra is in deadly danger, but the government, afraid of what will happen if the outside world finds out what has been let loose, is playing its cards close to its chest. For the Quiebrans, however, their predicament seems at first only a streak of light in the night sky and a potentially profitable salvage operation for Adair Leverton's father. Shirley's characters are believably flawed and variable, while his nasty little nanocreatures are, well, nasty (also singleminded about spreading). Meanwhile, his prose is often quite wonderful, even when he is describing something stomach-turningly icky. This portrayal of the dangers of secret experimentation with the diabolically dangerous is unnerving, not least because it is frighteningly convincing." -Booklist
"Crawlers has Shirley's trademark intensity, moral outrage and critical wit but also includes deep social and political allegories as well. What happens when humanity becomes too dependent upon technology? Are we sacrificing consciousness for mindless pleasures and superfluous comforts? What if sentient technology turns the tables and begins using us as its tool? Shirley's latest is as terrifying as it is thought-provoking." -Bookpage
"CRAWLERS is a horror story on a par with Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Clive Barker. It is a story of science gone amuck and what the consequences are when not enough safeguards are placed on a scientific black-ops experiment. The novel is fast paced and the action never lets up yet the author doesn't ignore character development. The people who populate the pages of this book are rugged individuals who try to fight the enemy and endear themselves to the audience in the process." -All Scifi.com
In Shirley's frightening new novel, he extends the smart work he did in Demons (2002), investing a fierce genre tale with spiritual import. Here Shirley reaches back to the classic pulp scenario of a small town beset by an alien invasion. In this case, though the townspeople of Quiebra, Calif., initially assume that the capsule that crashes originated in space, it's actually a satellite put into orbit by a hush-hush military research outfit fearful of the out-of-control nanotechnology experiment it contains. The experiment involves nanoparticles that have evolved into a kind of group mind (as in Michael Crichton's Prey), taking over human (and animal) hosts and, by incorporating pieces of hardware, refashioning those hosts into an amalgam of human and machine ("Deputy Sprague's neck was gone, replaced with a metal stalk..."). Humans differ as to their vulnerability to takeover, with some adults more resistant than others, and younger people quite resistant; this allows Shirley to use teenagers-a likely readership for the book-as the novel's heroes, and his understanding of teen ways and patterns of speech is deep and exact. This tack also allows for some profound emotion, as kids-particularly Adair and Waylon Leverton, whose father is the first person taken over in Quiebra-witness the soul-destruction and/or death of their parents. The novel's depiction of humans devolving into group-mind-controlled machines proves an excellent metaphor for Shirley's take here on the human condition, which posits that some of us are already machinelike and others more "awake"; but the narrative does slide slightly into didacticism as it elaborates these understandings. Overall, though, this is an exciting novel of ideas wrapped in red-hot pulp. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This novel is an unimaginative, uninteresting retread of every single horror-thriller novel or movie ever to come along. Some top-secret government project goes awry, and a few years later the residents of a small California town are dealing with the ramifications by turning into zombies. With the exception of one or two scenes where the author forgets himself and is interesting, the whole thing has the reader asking, "Didn't I read something like this in one of the Goosebumps books? Wasn't it much more exciting then?" This novel is what readers get when someone tries to update R. L. Stine's work for older readers, takes out all the parts that made the Goosebumps series fun to read in the first place, and tosses in a dash of Tom Clancy for flavora snore. There are no stakes in the book, too many cardboard cut-out characters, and not enough to make it worth sitting down and reading. The best scenes involve a ghoulish description of the undead crawling through a cemetery, and one where a zombie mother comes out of it long enough to tell her son to scram and then gets ripped apart. No one could tell from that description of the scene, probably, but it is oddly emotional and affecting. This kind of a combination would have made the book easier to sit through as a whole. Otherwise, steer any potential readers away, and direct them to the works of Stine, Stephen King, and Peter Benchley. That way, they are more likely to come back. VOYA Codes: 2Q 3P J S A/YA (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, DelRey, 400p., Trade pb. Ages 12 to Adult.
Three years after a government experiment goes dreadfully wrong, a small community receives an apparently unearthly visitation in the form of strange lights in the sky and the sudden impact of an airborne vehicle. Soon the town's population become the victims of an insidious force intent on transforming all life on Earth into something other than human-crawlers. The author of Demons and Wetbones crafts another visceral chiller that draws its impact from sympathetic characters caught in the grip of powers they cannot control. A good choice for most horror collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Really, really, really, really gruesome and Shirleyesque. Shirley is a philosophe/fantaste of the Grand Guignol school who reinvents hell in work after work, seemingly for a fanbase of the kind of kid who loves slasher moviesfilms that come nowhere near the grue that Shirley can squeeze from flesh (The View from Hell, 2001, we called "worst novel of the year," and 2002’s Demons we called "masterful, amusing, and sent from Mars"). Crawlers is the musings of a technocrank, and we open at the government’s three-walls-thick secret nanotechnology lab, where molecular machines have gone berserk and let cells loose that dismember humans and use human arms and legs and heads and torsos to crawl about independently of each other and perform further dismemberments. Three years later, a US satellite module crashes into a lake near Quiebra, California (Quiebra, we are told, means "queer-bait"). Two teenagers, Waylon Kulick and Adair Leverton, observe the crash. Adair’s brother Cal alerts their father, who runs Leverton Salvage, and he goes down to salvage the sunken module. It has a crack, and when Dad sticks his fingers into the crack, there’s an answering touch and tingle. Then the module is hauled aloft as the reader squirms: Don’t open it! Soon, naked crawlers show up in a cemeterybodies that have metal extensions seemingly to help them crawl out of their graves and join in groupthink mental transference. Pets start dying, killed violently. Squirrels have long metal tongues, blue jays metal feet, and they don’t run or fly, they roll. People start turning into weird machines with huge mouths, turning other people into weird machines. Sure, it’s Californiabut this could get outtahand. What if it goes online, like a virus, or zaps you from your telephoneor even from the television! Omigod, these long silver strands leap into your mouth and turn you. Horrible! Robotic nanocells!! Taking over!! Definitely bad news.