Horror Book Review: Stinger by Robert McCammon

Stinger has arrived in a remote town in Texas with a simple goal, recapture an intergalactic fugitive, and destroy anything that gets in it’s way.

Brought to us from the mind of Robert McCammon, Stinger tells a science fiction/horror story centred around the arrival of two aliens into a remote town in Texas. One, an escapee fleeing her captors, the other, Stinger, a relentless bounty-hunter, sent to bring her back. Robert McCammon is an author I only recently became seriously aware of. Shocking really, considering how long he has been at the top of his game but it was thanks to stumbling across the awesome and epic, Swan Song that I ended up reaching for Stinger, wanting to experience more of his writings.

Robert McCammon is an American novelist from Birmingham, Alabama and was one of the influential names in the late 1970s–early 1990s American horror literature boom. So large was his impact that by around 1991, he had three New York Times bestsellers (The Wolf’s Hour, Stinger, and Swan Song) and around 5 million books in print. Personal struggles and industry clashes saw him put down his pen in 1991 though, and many of his earlier works went out of print. He returned from hiatus in 2002, has since written 14 new books and rereleased many out of print originals.

Stinger is from his pre-hiatus works though, originally releasing in 1988 and becoming nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.

Stinger Robert McCammon author image

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“Suddenly he was tumbling forward, falling through darkness. His mouth opened in a cry of terror as he realized that the room had no floor, that he was crashing through the roof of Hell….
And the he heard something that made the hairs stir at the nape of his neck….

It was a furtive, scuttling sound; a moist sound. Something was moving in the darkness below….”

The story of Stinger takes place during a single twenty-four hour period in a small town called Inferno in Texas. Inferno is a town in trouble, driven to the brink by racial tension, gang violence, and a collapsing economy with a bridge splitting the town and two rival gangs essentially running one side each. Law enforcement is minimal and uninterested really, as the few remaining citizens prepare to move on from Inferno which is certainly heaving it’s last breaths.

The town of Inferno has been slowly dying since the copper mine went bust. It was one of those town’s that sprung up because of the mine, but now, with that industry gone, the end is near and one of the last signs of life in the town, the school, is also closing for good in two days. Most people are leaving town or have left town and those two gangs, The Rattlesnakes and the Renegades, are like vultures on Inferno’s corpse.

But things can always get worse, and they do so with astonishing speed when an unidentified spacecraft crash lands in the desert outside of town. That spacecraft brings attention but attention that is managed closely upon the arrival of a few agents, representing the Air Force. The spacecraft appears empty, though slightly further away, the Hammond family car, carrying Jessie Hammond and her young daughter, Stevie gets taken out by a strange sphere that seems to fall from the sky. That sphere contains who we will come to know as Dauphin, a strange alien creature that, once it emerges from it’s sphere, takes control of the young girl’s body for the duration of the story.

Despite how that might sound, Dauphin is not a threat, at least not directly. As she tells her story to a few around her over time, and we learn Stevie is safe, we also notice a sense of fear and urgency in Dauphin’s desperation to get off of this planet. She did not mean to land here, she crashed trying to escape something and she fears it is closing in on her, and what it will do if it finds her. As Dauphin learns about our world, in a very interesting and cool part of the book, she also learns that humanity has not got the means for her to escape as we do not have the tools or science for intergalactic travel.

Not long after this, a second craft arrives in Inferno carrying the alien being who will soon be known as Stinger. Stinger is a kind of interstellar hunter on a mission he intends to complete, whatever the cost. He brings with him an endless array of technological marvels and an infinite capacity for destruction that threaten the existence of Inferno, its inhabitants, and the larger world beyond.

Stinger Robert McCammon cover art variation

As Dauphin panics, but sees more and more of the remaining townsfolk side with her and try to help her, Stinger gets to work. First, to ensure she can go know further from the town, a forcefield appears over the town, trapping everyone within inside it’s dome, like, but before Under the Dome, by Stephen King, if you know it.

It digs a huge network of tunnels underground, allowing it to explode out of the ground anywhere and seems to have the ability to create replicas of those it savages, using technology on it’s ship to copy them and enhance them, creating a small army of vicious Stingers with silver claws for hands and razor-blade teeth. Then there is it’s own form, and the forms of the creatures it conjures. Sickening beasts, occasionally described as scorpion like, all in Inferno, ripping and tearing everything and everyone apart as it relentlessly hunts for Dauphin.

But Stinger did also bring one other thing to Inferno, and that is a ship capable of getting Dauphin out of there. But with Dauphin being the least threatening creature imaginable, outside help locked behind a forcefield that cannot be crossed, a handful of locals and a couple left behind agents surely stand no chance against the weaponry and murderous nature of Stinger.

I really enjoyed Stinger after what felt like quite a slow start to the story. In fact, I was a bit concerned after 50 or so pages that it was taking a long time going anywhere but, by the end, I truly appreciated all of the early time dedicated to scene setting and character development. That is where this story excels actually. At it’;s core, it’s a pretty standard tribute to sci-fi horror  with it’s two aliens arrive, one good, one bad and the local down and outs find a reason for living as their humanity is awoken in protecting the innocent. It’s sweet, but turned into something much more important because of the many pages dedicated to learning about the rather large ensemble, Robert McCammon brings together here.

There are so many people in this story that are fully fleshed out and developed that I won’t mention the whole cast here but some of my favourites. Some characters I really bought in to were Cody Lockett and Rick Jurado, leaders of the two rival gangs the Renegades and the Rattlesnakes. I loved their arcs. From violence and hatred, they end up in a situation where they come together and fight Stinger as one, or die and while friendships are never formed, respect and maybe a little admiration is earned. I enjoyed the Hammond family, in particular Jessie who’s desperation to help Dauphin so that her daughter Stevie is returned safer oozes out of the pages.

I really disliked Vance, the local cop who was a bit of a waste of space but only invoked strong feelings from me towards him due to how well written in he was. Okay, maybe a little bit of me sympathises with him as he was certainly fighting a losing battle to ensure law and order in this town. I really liked the story of Cody’s father very much too. A desperate loser, alcoholic waste of space that showed no guidance towards Cody and maybe a lot of the cause of his gang leading, violent tendencies but still a man who can turn a corner and be a father at the most desperate of times when faced with Stinger. Then there was Agent Rhodes, a committed and honest man who genuinely tries his best to keep people safe and get one up on Stinger.

Basically, just a huge cast of multi dimensional characters that you could really get behind and care about. Descriptions were great too with almost all of the characters described in a way that I could easily conjure them up in my mind. The same goes for the town, again it being so easy to imagine thanks to the strong writings of Robert McCammon. Then there is the copious amounts of gore and blood which is visceral in it’s frantic and regular delivery and horrifically described. I love that.

To summarise though, Stinger is a slightly mad, adrenaline fuelled romp filled with fleshed out and impactful characters and some of the most horrific imagery you are likely to have the pleasure of reading about. A slow start, yes, but once it gets going, it does not take the foot off the gas until the satisfying end. It’s ye another must read book from the mind of the great Robert McCammon.



  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

Stinger by Robert McCammon

Book Title: Stinger

Book Author: Robert McCammon

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