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Riding The Bullet
by Stephen King

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You know you're in Stephen King country the instant you glimpse the cover of Riding the Bullet, King's first story published exclusively as an e-book. Could any mere physical book cover capture the eerie glow of that enormous moon with a hitchhiker's thumb in front of it? Or the menacing twin beams of the approaching car headlights? Scariest of all is the rising ground mist in the roadside cemetery, illuminated by unholy moonlight.

In the 66 pages that follow, King straps you into the terrified mind of Alan Parker, a college student hitching through rural Maine because his widowed, impoverished mom just had a stroke, he's got to get to the hospital, and his car is dead. That's not all that's dead out there, as he soon discovers. One of the drivers who picks him up is bad news beyond his sweatiest nightmares. "God kicks your ass in the end, let me tell you," a sinister old man tells young Alan along the road, and he's right. But what gets to Alan is most definitely not heaven-sent.

In recent years, King has been experimenting: he's published his first audio-only book (Blood and Smoke), his first serial novel (The Green Mile), a short-story collection about the boomer generation (Hearts in Atlantis), an ambitious literary novel (Bag of Bones), and a largely nonsupernatural novella about a lost child in the woods (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). With Riding the Bullet, he goes back to his pure-horror roots, and he hasn't lost his touch. King's gift is to convey the terrors of childhood (the Bullet is a "revolving scream machine" at the amusement park Thrill Village) and the unspeakable things that lurk beneath everyday reality--in this case, Maine at night, when shadows flicker ambiguously, trees writhe "like spontaneous dancers at a tent show revival," and grave markers poke up out of the mist. Even the crisp rustle of a nurse's skirt at the hospital where Alan's mom's fate hangs in the balance packs a horrific punch. The devil is in the details, they say, and it's the vivid sensory particulars that make this nightmare come to life.

What happens to Alan and his mom? Let's just say his soul is put to the test--and you are fated to read straight through to the end at the speed of a spooked driver on a very scary highway.
 --Tim Appelo

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