The Missing Mass Market Paperback – Sep 25 2007
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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.)
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“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)
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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
This book starts off with Lois who is just such so sad. She is with this guy who she doesn't really seem to like or think that much of and her bff is terrible to her. Her mom is a nightmare and she has chances to get out, to do something great for herself and she just doesn't. She is just...I didn't really understand her. I didn't much care for her and her poor me seeming ways. She takes her kids to the woods outside of the town next to theirs where there was a huge fire and chemical contamination not too long ago (the story of the first book apparently). Why? Not sure. She just does. When she gets there things are worse than she thought they would be. Everything seems to be dead. Plants, animals, not much to see and do. She still keeps up her field trip though and when one of the boys gets left behind he unearths the evil that infects the town.
Through the story you meet other characters and see what they go through when people start getting sick and things quickly deteriorate. As I said before I didn't really like any of them. Meg was just...I really didn't understand her and how she thought. It is just everyone in this town seems to be miserable, but they don't do anything about it. They are miserable and all I hate other people, but then they think no, I don't hate them. I love them. And back and forth. The way the evil spreads and how it works was kind of cool. Different, but like a combination of a few different monsters.
I did enjoy the story and I liked how it ended. Even though I didn't understand the people and found them strange it was still an enjoyable read.
This review was originally posted to Jen in Bookland
Sort of bloody and gory. Read in a day.