Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneThis is the car they drove from Vigor, Indiana, to Steuben, North Carolina: a silvery-gray Renault 18i deluxe wagon, an '81 model with about forty thousand miles on it, twenty-five thousand of which they had put on it themselves. The paint was just beginning to get tiny rust-colored pockmarks in it, but the wiring had blown about fifteen fuses and they'd had to put three new drive axles in it because it was designed so that when a ball bearing wore out you had to replace the whole assembly. It couldn't climb a hill at fifty-five, but it could seat two adults in the leather bucket seats and three kids across the back. Step Fletcher was driving, had been driving since they finally got away from the house well after noon. Empty house. He was still hearingechoes all the way to Indianapolis. Somewhere along the way he must have passed the moving van, but he didn't notice it or didn't recognize it or maybe the driver had pulled into a McDonald's somewhere or a gas station as they drove on by.The others all fell asleep soon after they crossed the Ohio River. After Step had talked so much about flatboats and Indian wars, the kids were disappointed in it. It was the bridge that impressed them. And then they fell asleep. DeAnne stayed awake a little longer, but then she squeezed his hand and nestled down into the pillow she had jammed into the corner between the seat back and the window.Just how it always goes, thought Step. She stays awake the whole time I'm wide awake and then, just as I get sleepy and maybe need to have her spell me for a while at the wheel, she goes to sleep.He pushed the tape the rest of the way into the player. It was the sweet junky sound of "The E StreetShuffle." He hadn't listened to that in a while. DeAnne must have had it playing while she ran the last-minute errands in Vigor. Step had played that album on their second date. It was kind of a test. DeAnne was so serious about religion, he had to know if she could put up with his slightly wild taste in music. A lot of Mormon girls would have missed the sexual innuendos entirely, of course, but DeAnne was probably smarter than Step was, and so she not only noticed the bit about girls promising to unsnap their jeans and the fairies in a real bitch fight, she also got the part about hooking onto the midnight train, but she didn't get upset, she just laughed, and he knew it was going to be OK, she was religious but not a prig and that meant that he wouldn't have to pretend to be perfect in order to be with her. Ten years ago, 1973. Now they had three kids in the back of the Renault 18i wagon, probably the worst car ever sold in America, and they were heading for Steuben, North Carolina, where Step had a job.A "good job. Thirty thousand a year, which wasn't bad for a brand new history Ph.D. in a recession year. Except that he wasn't teaching history, he wasn't writing history, the job was putting together manuals for a computer software company. Not even programming -- he couldn't even get hired for "that, even though Hacker Snack was the best-selling game for the Atari back in '81. For a while there it had looked like his career was made as a game designer. They had so much money they figured they could afford for him to go back to school and finish his doctorate. Then the recession came, and the lousy Commodore 64 was killing the Atari in the stores, and suddenly his game was out ofprint and nobody wanted him except as a manual writer.So Springsteen played along to his semi-depressed mood as Step wound the car up into the mountains, the sun setting in the west as the road angled them mostly east into the darkness. I should be happy, he told himself. I got the degree, I got a good job, and nothing says I can't do another game in my spare time, even if I have to do it on the stupid 64. It could be worse. I could have got a job programming Apples.Despite what he said to encourage himself, the words still tasted like failure in his mouth. Thirty-two years old, three kids, and I'm on the downhill slope. Used to work for myself, and now I have to work for somebody else. Just like my dad with his sign company that went bust. At least he had the scar on his back from the operation that took out a vertebra. Me, I got no visible wounds. I was riding high one day, and then the next day we found out that our royalties would be only $7,000 instead of $40,000 like the last time, and we scrambled around looking for work and we've got debts coming out of our ears and I'm going to be just as broke as my folks for the rest of my life and it's my own damned fault. Wage slave like my dad.Just so I don't have the shame of my wife having to take some lousy swingshift job like Mom did. Fine if she "wants to get a job, that's fine, but not if she "has to.Yet he knew even as he thought of it that that was what would happen next -- they wouldn't be able to sell the house in Vigor and she'd have to get a job just to keep up the payments on it. We were fools to buy a house, but we thought it would be a good investment.
The Perfect Place To Raise A Family
From the bestsellig storyteller Orson Scott Card comes a gripping story of terror within a small town. Step Fletcher, his pregnant wife DeAnne, and their three children move to Steuben, North Carolina with high hopes. But Step's new job with a software company turns out to be a snake pit, and eight-year-old Stevie's school is worse. As Stevie retreats into himself, focusing more and more on a mysterious computer game and a growing troop of imaginary friends, the Fletchers' concern turn to terror. Young boys whose names match a list of Stevie's nonexistent friends have mysteriously vanished from Steuben. And as evil strikes out from the most trusted corners, it's suddenly clear: Stevie's next on the list.
For Step Fletcher, his pregnant wife DeAnne, and their three children, the move to tiny Steuben, North Carolina, offers new hope and a new beginning. But from the first, eight-year-old Stevie's life there is an unending parade of misery and disaster.
Cruelly ostracized at his school, Stevie retreats further and further into himself -- and into a strange computer game and a group of imaginary friends.
But there is something eerie about his loyal, invisible new playmates: each shares the name of a child who has recently vanished from the sleepy Southern town. And terror grows for Step and DeAnne as the truth slowly unfolds. For their son has found something savagely evil ... and it's coming for Stevie next.
Award-winning author Card proves to be a master at mainstream fiction with this chilling family drama that touches the heart as it frightens the soul. When the Fletchers move to North Carolina, their son withdraws from reality into a world of computer games and fictitious playmates--whose names match those of missing young boys.
About the Author
Orson Scott Card has won several Hugo and Nebula Awards for his works of speculative fiction, among them the Ender series and The Tales of Alvin Maker. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife and four children.