I consider Robert McCammon to be a god of the horror genre, and Stinger is his finest work. Stinger is a story within a story with amazingly vivid characters that years later still resonate with me, told in an emotionally satisfying way. It’s thrilling, touching and terrifying all at the same time, a remarkable achievement by a fantastic writer.
Stinger takes place in the town of Inferno, Texas. The name pretty much says it all. Inferno is a dying town filled with hard-edged people who are hanging on by their fingernails trying to survive. The Hammonds are a decent family who seem out of place in this rough town. Inferno features rival gangs. The Hispanic gang is led by Rick Jurado, and the white gang is led by Cody Lockett. Despite the fact that these are gangs, the reader gets the feeling that the gang members aren’t entirely bad and that under different circumstances they may not fall into a life of crime. Conflict abounds even before the main element of the story is introduced, which is a nice alien named Daufin. Daufin takes the form of a little, blonde human girl and she is taken in by the Hammond family, who have no idea that she is an alien. Daufin is in the middle of an intergalactic war and she is being hunted down by an alien bounty hunter named Stinger, who is one of the most well developed villains I have ever encountered. Stinger is mean and nasty and will stoop to the lowest levels to get what he wants, yet at the same time he is very believable.
Stinger in essence puts an impenetrable bubble over the town of Inferno, isolating it from the rest of humanity, who are incapable of helping the residents of Inferno as they deal with this alien menace. There is a great deal of character development and redemption that takes place in this novel as Cody’s alcoholic father offers some heroics in his dying moments, and the two gang leaders work together to fight off the aliens, and the town’s residents bound together to help Daufin. There is so much to like about this novel. It’s expertly written and loaded with tension and scares. It’s the best sci-fi horror novel I’ve ever read and I would unequivocally recommend it for your reading pleasure.