PositiveThe GuardianAt times Dee’s tale hops around with too much abandon, channel-surfing across the heads of its ensemble cast ... the ground appears to have been laid for an acid political satire, a tale that charts the creeping progress of fascism up Main Street USA. Except that the author appears to delight in confounding expectations, even at the risk of doubling back on himself ... Dee likes dramas that change direction. He paints his moral universe in shades of grey. And here he appears to have outdone himself, rustling up a portrait of a New England town in a state of flux that seeks to make a bonus out of its lack of resolution. The Locals is first intriguing, then exasperating, and finally rather admirable in its open-ended narrative. Audaciously, this sends the reader in pursuit of a shadowy quarry, pointing us towards the dark heart of fictional Howland, Massachusetts. Then it removes all the signposts, repositions the cameras and leaves us to find our own way back out.
Sleeping BeautiesStephen King & Owen King
PositiveThe Guardian...a bulging, colourful epic; a super-sized happy meal, liberally salted with supporting characters and garnished with splashes of arterial ketchup ... In framing small-town America as the microcosm of a single-sex planet, Sleeping Beauties could be the Y-chromosome sibling to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, in which three explorers gatecrash a feminist utopia. But devotees of King Sr will find more familiar echoes here, too ... Sleeping Beauties is at its most satisfying during its breakneck opening half, as the crisis takes hold, before the allegorical baggage piles up. One of King Sr’s great strengths as a writer is his mastery of the milieu of small-town USA, his uncanny ability to ventriloquise its inhabitants and keep his myriad pieces in play. His tale only falters when it doubles down on its premise, belatedly introducing a parallel Dooling, a shadow world for the sleeping women that is 'so much better than the old man-driven one' – although even here it manages to redeem itself. The denouement is ambiguous, elegantly open-ended. Assuming the two tribes can be reconciled, one is left with the sense that they are destined to remain at a distance ... perhaps it’s no accident that this epic feels so vital and fresh. Sleeping Beauties comes fuelled by a youthful vigour that King Sr hasn’t shown us in years.