Reviews for If It Bleeds

by Stephen King

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

King works well short as well as long—some of his novellas have been the basis of celebrated films, including "The Body" (Stand by Me) and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (The Shawshank Redemption). Here are four novellas—"Mr. Harrigan's Phone," "The Life of Chuck," "Rat," and "If It Bleeds"—guaranteed to take you to a dark place. With a million-copy first printing; BISACed as suspense, not horror.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

King received a Bram Stoker Award for his previous collection of novellas, Full Dark No Stars (2010), and here he presents four more original suspenseful and chilling stories. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” recounts the experiences of a young boy who befriends a reclusive, retired billionaire and introduces him to the wonders of a first generation iPhone with unintended and ominous results. In “Rat,” a struggling writer determined to complete his novel holes up in the deep woods of Maine, but things begin to go awry. These two tales are definitive representations of King's accessible writing style, which is filled with nostalgia that makes readers feel good, but which is intertwined with menace that can surge and surprise at any moment. “The Life of Chuck,” told in reverse chronological order, is a richly conceived tale of the multitudes of lives within every person. In the title story, “If It Bleeds,” King places investigator Holly Gibney from his Bill Hodges novels and The Outsider (2018) on center stage, as she hunts an elusive killer who thrives on the misery and despair of others. This set of novellas is thought-provoking, terrifying, and, at times, outright charming, showcasing King’s breadth as a master storyteller.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: King's love of short fiction makes this a powerful addition to his megapopular oeuvre and fans will be on the hunt.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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