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The Missing [Mass Market Paperback]

Sarah Langan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 6 2007

A remote and affluent Maine community, Corpus Christi was untouched by the environmental catastrophe that destroyed the neighboring blue-collar town of Bedford. But all that will change in a heartbeat . . .

The nightmare is awakened when third-grade schoolteacher Lois Larkin takes the children on a field trip to Bedford. There in the abandoned woods, a small, cruel boy unearths an ancient horror—a contagious plague that transforms its victims into something violent, hungry . . . and inhuman.

The long, dark night is just beginning. And all hope must die as the contagion feeds—for the malevolence will not rest until it has devoured every living soul in Corpus Christi . . . and beyond.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In her second novel, Langan delivers a powerhouse creepfest that recalls, in the best way possible, the early work of Stephen King. Corpus Christi, Maine, was once a town of affluence, but since the mysterious paper mill fire in the neighboring town of Bedford (depicted in last year's well-received debut, The Keeper) released dense sulfuric clouds that killed the surrounding forest, Corpus Christi has been in steady decline. When fourth-grade teacher Lois Larkin takes her class on a field trip to the now-abandoned Bedford, they're exposed to a deadly virus that transforms the infected into ravenous, flesh-eating monsters. Rather than stick to zombie lit convention (mindless undead, endless chases), Langan invests her plague with a sinister intelligence of unknown origin, maintaining a skin-crawling tension as the vivid cast of characters succumb to murderous insanity, hunting down and tearing apart animals, neighbors and loved ones. Langan has the control of a pro, parsing just enough horrific details to allow the truly gruesome scenes to play out unbound in the imagination; this solid sophomore effort proves that The Keeper's disturbing ability to burrow into readers' heads and stay there was no fluke. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Langan has the control of a pro….” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“A genuine creepfest that recalls, in the best way possible, the early work of Stephen King” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Langan has crafted a grisly horror story that will keep you out of the woods for years to come.” (BookPage)

“Langan has a sharp eye for the small vivid details of American life, and her characters are utterly believable.” (London Times on The Keeper)

“...innovative, sharp, and absolutely chilling...” (Brian Keene, Bram Stoker Award winning author of Ghoul and Dead Sea)

“THE MISSING is reminiscent of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot with wicked drops of Koontz, Barker, and Straub.” (J.C. Patterson)

“[THE MISSING is] as engrossing as a dagger poised at one’s throat.” (J.C. Patterson)

“An astonishing first novel...chilling, haunting, and so smartly written that the pages fly by like the wind.” (Ray Garton, author of THE LOVELIEST DEAD)

“THE KEEPER kept me up, late into the night...I’m hoping for a whole shelf of novels by Langan.” (Kelly Link, author of MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS)

“[A] brilliant debut, heralding the arrival of a major talent.” (Tim Lebbon, author of DUSK and BERSERK)

“A smart, brand-new take on the haunted house story…hard to believe this is a first novel.” (Jack Ketchum, author of OFFSPRING)

“[A] distinct and juicy flavor all its own. THE KEEPER begins what should be a very fruitful career.” (Peter Straub, New York Times bestselling author of IN THE NIGHT ROOM)

“A dark and bracingly bleak tale of supernatural terror.” (Ramsey Campbell, author of SECRET STORY)

“Akin to the more ambitious work of Stephen King...this effective debut promises great things to come.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Deft and disturbing... twists expectations into surreal surprises... hypnotic reading - an assured and impressive debut.” (Douglas E. Winter)

“Echoes of Stephen King resound...the first fruits of a most promising career.” (Washington Times)

“...The new author on the block is definitely a keeper...” (-Edward Bryant, Locus)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good Nov. 20 2012
By Andrea
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
The barcode sticker was annoying because it doesn't come off easily. The book was in good shape, like they described.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  46 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and beautifully written Sept. 26 2007
By Henry W. Wagner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Missing is Sarah Langan's second novel, a follow up to her highly praised 2006 debut, The Keeper, which no less a light than Peter Straub described as combining "a genuinely poetic sensibility with a taste for horror's most bravura excesses." Happily, The Missing (called The Virus in its UK incarnation) shows those same qualities, resulting in a book that's memorable, heartbreaking and disturbing.

The Missing (inspired in part by Langan's personal experiences in New York in the days after the 9/11 attack, when the smells and dust emanating from ground zero permeated the air in the city) is a loose sequel to The Keeper. For instance, a character from that novel appears briefly, and the town of Bedford, where The Keeper was set, is mentioned. The key link between the two novels, however, is the explosion of Clott Paper Mill at the end of The Keeper.

Besides killing several people, the explosion and subsequent fire resulted in the release of deadly Hydrogen Sulfide gas into the air. That element comes to permeate the soil in the woods between Bedford and Corpus Christi, Maine, enabling a virus in the soil there to evolve into something deadly and malevolent, thus setting the stage for the events described in The Missing.

Langan's fictional horror is precipitated by, of all things, a fourth grade field trip, where a student gets lost. After being exposed to the virus, that student becomes a Typhoid Mary of sorts, spreading the virus by attacking and biting members of the local populace. Soon, the majority of the citizens of Corpus Christi are seized by madness, turning into aggressive, flesh-craving crazies, all intent on securing their next meal and spreading the virus to new hosts. They are led by the pregnant teacher, wallflower Lois Larkin, who, while searching for her student, felt compelled to ingest some of the tainted forest dirt. Due to the way she is introduced to the virus, she becomes the hub of the group mind that the virus fosters in its victims, coming to lead the infected against the remaining populace.

The Missing effectively combines small town horror with apocalyptic fiction, calling to mind several books and at least one film exploiting similar themes--King's Cell, Straub's Floating Dragon, and John Shirley's In Darkness Waiting are the novels, 28 Days Later the film--as people try to cope with a rapidly changing, infinitely more deadly world than the one they've become accustomed to. The two novels it consciously or unconsciously evokes most, however, are two classics, David Morrell's The Totem, and Chet Williamson's Ash Wednesday, the first because its posits a chillingly plausible explanation behind the legends of the werewolf, vampire and zombie, the second because, like Williamson, Langan knows that apocalypse is personal, choosing to generate emotional force from the trials and tribulations of a small cast of characters, rather than choosing a larger, global stage. Through thoroughly arresting prose, Langan creates an air of intimacy between her cast and her readers that she exploits to its fullest, demonstrating that small, everyday horrors--a friend's betrayal, a spouse's infidelity, the breakdown of a family unit, and the difficult choices daily life forces on us--can be more devastating to some than the literal end of the world.

Reading this novel should prove reassuring to horror's old(er) guard--although elements of the book will certainly feel familiar, it's not a mere rehash of prior works. Rather, it is a statement that it's perfectly legitimate to revisit what's come before, as long as writers come at the material from a slightly different angle, with a slightly different perspective. The old saw that "there are no new stories, only new ways of telling them" once again holds true, at once a concession to reality and a creative challenge. It's invigorating to see new talent like Langan handling that challenge so deftly.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty bad, but... March 31 2008
By Rolsch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
There are a few good blurbs in and on this book that interested me from a few good writers that interest me so I bought it (or rather, I Mooched it) and I read it. It was a pretty quick read and I have to say, it was quick because I didn't like it very much.

The story is pretty good. The characterizations are pretty bad. I felt like the author was trying to create internally tormented characters but the resulting characterizations were shallowly annoying and instead of coming across tormented to this reader, they came off the pages as ridiculously vacillating. Example: The main character, or family actually, was so full of conflicting emotions and mental attitudes toward each other that I started doubting if the author even realized what they were up to. Feelings toward other family members and "loved ones" flipped between love, hate, complete passion and absolute displeasure... all within the space of a paragraph... over and over and over. It was annoying and my suspension of reality (a necessary request by an author of any reader) was tested to the limits.

The book left me feeling like there was definitely something "Missing." What was missing was any kind of coherency. Don't get me wrong, I understand incoherent emotions and how they can play a role in a good story. There is nothing better than an incoherent person to add drama and suspense and even emotion (in the reader, either disdain or pity or even pleasure at such out-there thinking and actions) but when your main characters vacillate between such extremes it gets to be a big distraction.

I love my wife, I hate my wife, I love my husband, I hate my husband, I love my parents, I hate my parents, I love our life, I hate our life, I'm a good person, I'm evil, I hate everything, I love everything. This is how the book reads. Passion, either good or evil, is a great attribute. Trying to impose both at the same time can make for great and tormented characters delving into a slip of sanity. Or, it can make for a miserable roller coaster ride that detracts from the overall story. The latter is what we have here.

Never mind the fact that the premise of the book lies just past the reach of suspended reality to which readers are asked to submit. In this case, a teacher (another tormented, I hate/I love character) is given permission in upscale community of Corpus Christi, ME to take children on a field trip to a decimated, diseased, burned, polluted and dying neighboring town called Bedford (this was too convenient and I would propose would never have been allowed in the first place, thus my suspension of reality was tested early) where an evil is released by an annoying little schoolboy with a Jeffery Dahmer childhood. Never mind that, and the characterizations, and the book is still, well... pretty bad.

-=R=-
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Takes a while to get going.... Dec 20 2007
By Deborah Wiley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A field trip leads to the awakening....

Despite the decimation from a fire in Bedford, the school board approves teacher Lois Larkin to take her fourth grade class on a field trip to the site. Lois is heartbroken over her the breakup of her engagement to Ronnie Koehler, so heartbroken that she doesn't notice when one of her students goes missing. The search is on for James Walker, but it is too late as he has awakened something, something dark and hungry that has only been biding its time in Bedford. Will anyone survive as this vicious plague spreads?

I almost didn't finish THE MISSING. Why in the world would a school board approve a field trip to a place like Bedford? The descriptions were positively terrifying, as Sarah Langan does an excellent job at building a suspenseful and horrifying atmosphere. But I couldn't grasp why a school board would say Lois could take her students to a place where birds would drop dead in mid flight and trees shriveled up and died.

I also struggled with Lois' character. Her sniffling over Ronnie should have been at least sad, but instead I found myself irritated by her refusal to develop a backbone or to reach out to the opportunities available to her. Lois initially seems as if she is determined to fail. However, Sarah Langan has some surprises in store for the reader as Lois is going to be a doormat no longer.

THE MISSING progresses into a decent horror novel once the story kicks in. The town of Corpus Christi, Maine, is about to know the true meaning of horror as the residents will have to face the horrendous consequences of this plague. In the midst of this devastation, several individuals struggle to survive. Readers will find themselves drawn into the subplots featuring Maddie Wintrob and her family, along with that of the Walker family and Danny Walker, as they are caught in this apocalyptic nightmare. Will they survive? Or is everyone doomed to die? Only the turn of the page will reveal what happens....

COURTESY OF CK2S KWIPS AND KRITIQUES
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deserving Stoker winner Aug. 19 2008
By Elizabeth Donald - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Langan has the ability to create a fully-realized, three-dimensional person in only a few short pages. Near the beginning of THE MISSING, a woman walks out of her house to pick up the newspaper. On her way back, she sees a bird eating poisonous berries. If a lesser author were to write this sequence, it would be half a page and we would know no more about this woman when she returned to the house than we did at the beginning of the chapter.

With Langan behind the wheel, this ordinary moment is a glimpse into a life both complex and ordinary, a woman frustrated in her role as mother and wife, full of regret and hope and sadness all at once. She is a real person, someone we know or might even have been, and we suddenly care very much what happens to her.

This is where most horror movies and many novels fail: making characters into archetypes, easily disposed of when the monster appears. Langan never falls into stereotype, making each character nuanced and real, with flaws that remind us that they are human beings. We never cheer for any of the deaths, even when they are characters we wouldn't want to know in real life. But we feel real sorrow at their flailing and ultimate futile attempts to save themselves.

Langan's voice will echo in your head for days after you finish reading this book. I find myself eagerly awaiting her next outing, even if the path down which she leads us is lined with poisonous flowers.

[...]
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Missing Will Thrill You Jan. 8 2008
By Book Mama - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
What started out as an innocent field trip to the woods in the neighboring town of Bedford turned into a nightmare for the inhabitants of Corpus Christi, Maine. Lois Larkin, grade school teacher beloved by most everyone in the small affluent town was troubled by a broken heart and broken dreams, or maybe she would have thought better of the ill fated trip.

A disturbed young boy awakens an evil hiding in the woods. A malicious evil waiting to spread and an unsuspecting town is its breeding ground. But Corpus Christi is just the beginning.

Sarah Langan proves with her second thrilling novel that she's no fluke. THE MISSING is an intellectual scare-fest that will have you pondering the survival of mankind. More than just an apocalyptic tale, we follow patient zero and the newly infected on a path of ideological malevolence and those who are fighting to survive it. These aren't mindless vampires or zombies and that's one thing that makes it so disturbing. The people infected keep a part of themselves as they are driven insane and given a new purpose.

As with THE KEEPER, Langan's debut novel, I found myself more horrified by my own imagination as she allowed the reader to let the circumstances play out. I enjoyed being given the benefit of letting the disturbing events unfold without having the details ruined by verbosity. That's not to say that she doesn't paint a vivid picture of the circumstances and rich characters with a spellbinding and gruesome brush. That kind of talent is a valuable commodity and shows a maturity that's exciting in a new writer.

The supporting characters are ones we are familiar with. The wife struggling to overcome her infidelity, the psychologist trying to save one more patient, the teenager trying to find love and acceptance, the little boy who doesn't understand why he does bad things. It's what gives us resonance with the characters as they struggle though the horrific circumstances we are too afraid to imagine.

It's not necessary to read THE KEEPER to enjoy THE MISSING, but you will be rewarded with creepy details if you don't deny yourself the pleasure. While THE KEEPER made me sleep with the lights on, THE MISSING had me bolting my doors and checking my windows.

COURTESY OF CK2S KWIPS AND KRITIQUES
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