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A Robert R. McCammon science-fiction horror novel. The residents of a Dying Town plagued by racial tensions find themselves with more important things to worry about than their previous feuds and fears when two alien life forms arrive. One possesses the body of a young girl to hide from the second alien, a Bounty Hunter for a genocidal empire who wants to capture the other for very sinister purposes and also has ill designs for Earth in general.

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Tropes;

  • Beware My Stinger Tail: The alien antagonist and the biomechanical replicants it creates have segmented tails ending in a heavy ball of spikes which are used as brutal weapons (and in the case of the larger replicants, they are also used to demolish buildings and cars like a wrecking ball).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Stinger is killed and Daufin manages to successfully flee from earth all the while the house of Fist never finds out about Earth's location. However it still came at the cost of many lives of the people in the town such as Cody's dad and likewise Inferno is probably damage to the point of no return. However the last page ends on a happy note with both Ray and Cody making peace with each other and walking off together as friends.
  • Brick Joke: There is eight million dollars missing from what little remains of the town founder's estate. It gets unearthed in the final battle and the wind distributes it amongst the town folks.
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  • Bring My Brown Pants: Shell-shocked war veteran Sarge Dennison is among the victims of a small town to be kidnapped by an alien invader, and when Sarge gets a good look at the alien, he's so terrified that he wets his pants.
  • Butter Face: Nancy "Nasty" Slattery's skintight pants and figure are repeatedly emphasized in her admirer Ray Hammond's pov scenes, but he also admits she has a pointy chin and chipped teeth and marks of having once broke her nose (the latter two features from falling face first during a track meet) that cause her to "just [miss] being pretty."
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Ray draws his own porn and is constantly ogling "Nasty" Slattery, but after the final battle, she passes out from exhaustion and suffers some Clothing Damage that exposes her breasts. Upon realizing she's too exhausted to notice, Ray contemplates groping her, but covers her up with a jacket instead.
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  • Death by Childbirth: Cody's mother died when he was born, leaving his dad a depressed alcoholic.
  • Did Not Get the Girl A downplayed example but Ray despite being with alone with Nasty and helping her does not get with her in the climax. However this never was going in the first place due to the age difference between them. Also Nasty's sincerely nice words to Ray about how Ray will make some girl a lucky woman, makes him very accepting of that fact and knows he will find someone one day.
  • Dishonored Dead: Downplayed, but Noah Twilley, who wanted to study insects but is stuck running the family funeral home, buried his father in "the hottest plot" in the cemetery as an act of spite and plans to do the same to his emotionally abusive mother when she dies.
  • Dying Town: Inferno, Texas is a mining town with no minerals left. The school just got shut down and everyone is in bad financial shape besides Cade, whose prosperity comes from organized crime.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The 500 page book takes place over 24 hours.
  • Faux Affably Evil: For a hideous, inhuman alien, Stinger is quite polite and congenial. It's a mask for the devious, sadistic, heartless mercenary he is.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The House of Fists, a genocidal alien theocracy that Stinger frequently works for and who will happily wipe out earth if they know of them. The conflict of the novel is to stop Stinger from selling intelligence on earth's existence to the House.
  • Greed: Stinger has zero motivation besides his payday. Upon realizing he can sell Earth's existence to the House of Fists, he abandons his pursuit of Daufin, since the House will pay him far more for knowledge of a helpless species they can eradicate.
  • Heroic Sacrifice Cody's Daddy sacrifices his life to help kill Stinger in the climax.
  • I Own This Town: The late Winston Preston was a Self-Made Man and Prospector who found copper in the desert, founded Inferno (named after his mule), and spent over fifty years running the town and backing the election of public officials before dying at the age of eighty-seven. He's described as a fairly benevolent unofficial town leader who saw the town as his "dream" but he wasn't all good, cheated on his taxes, and skirted the occasional safety regulation. The high school, park and various other landmarks are named after him. He named one street after his wife, renamed it "Nameless Street" after their divorce, and renamed it after his second wife when he remarried.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Sue Mullinax is an overweight waitress who wears too much makeup, but was the head cheerleader when she went to high school and acknowledges that those days were kinder for her.
  • Initiation Ceremony a group of boys initiate the only girl into their circle by chewing tobacco and spitting it into a cup. She drinks it.
  • Men of Sherwood: Aside from a few prominent members, the delinquents who make up the Renegades and Rattlers are largely interchangeable besides a few prominent members and seem like they'll be Canon Fodder Asshole Victims. However, the Enemy Mine scenario that follows an enemy attack sees them working together against the eponymous antagonist and almost all of them live.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: The Renegades and the Rattlers, the white and Mexican gangs of Inferno. They have some members who go to work for cocaine dealer Cade after high school, but most, although not all, members are only threats to each other. Even then, most of them are more reactive than proactive when it comes to violence (with incidents being stirred up by poor communication and some Overzealous Underlings).
    Daufin: This all you've got [for weapons]?
    Bobby Clay Clemmons That's about it. We never...like...wanted to kill anybody.
  • Only in It for the Money: Stinger's entire motivation is to get paid. Whether that's bringing Daufin back for a bounty or selling out humankind to genocide for an extra clink to his coins, he cares for nothing else.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Curt Lochett only ever refers to his late wife by his pet Affectionate Nickname for her, Treasure.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Cody Is one of the main heroes, and his gang members ultimately turn out to be more than the Delinquents they start out as, but many of them think or utter the slur "wetback" toward their Mexican enemies. Cody admits to himself in the first chapter that whether he believes the racist views his father impressed on him for his whole life depends on his mood, but that the only Hispanic person in Inferno who he considers a "good Mexican", is, Mr. Mendoza, his Benevolent Boss at the gas station. He does get better as the novel progresses.
  • Prospector: Inferno, Texas was founded by a prospector who came looking for gold but found copper instead, accidentally disturbed an Indian Burial Ground, and went on to found a mining company that the town depends on.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: In the climax Daufin gives a baseball related one to Stinger after killing Stinger with the bomb.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Rick's father deserted the family when he was five and his mother left him with his grandmother and went to pursue a modeling career that devolved into prostitution. She took Rick's three-year-old sister Miranda with her, but early in the book, a sixteen-year-old Miranda shows up in Inferno to live with Rick and their grandmother after her mother suggested she start prostituting herself as well to earn more money.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Colonel Rhodes, who leads the soldiers tracking down the aliens, is very patient with the locals, never lies or condescends to them after the first act, and prevents an attempt to keep the benevolent Daufin from leaving Earth.
  • Save Our Students: During his last day on the job before the school's final class graduates, Mr. Hammond reflects on how less than half of his students have ever attended college and most end up poor or in gangs. He tries to appeal to gang leaders Rick Juroda and Cody Lochett about how much potential they have and how poor the choices they're making are. They respect him a bit for trying, but dismiss the sentiment behind his words, at least until the aliens arrive.
  • Shoot the Dog: During World War II, Sarge adopted a stray dog named Scooter, but had to shoot him to keep him from bringing a grenade to the unit's foxhole when he mistook a skirmish for a game of fetch. Years later, it still haunts him.
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: One of the characters hears a scraping sound and only sees four twisted, alien claws by peering underneath a house that's on bricks. Prudently, he runs away.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: "Treasure" Lochett died giving birth to Cody, whose distant father only comes out of The Mourning After enough to appreciate this trope (in a Heel Realization manner) during the main story, almost twenty years after her death, when their son is in danger.
    Treasure was in Cody. She had left him part of herself, and he’d tossed the gift aside like a snotty rag.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Rick Juroda and Cody Lochett are gang leaders who hate each other. Then Cody runs into Rick's sister at a bus station when she comes to town and develops a fast crush. Downplayed, as the Extremely Short Timespan doesn't let their romance develop too much.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Fat, cowardly, mildly corrupt Sheriff Vance becomes a lot more brave and determined to defend the townspeople once the aliens show up.
  • Villainous Valour: Mack Cade, a sleazy, selfish, used-car dealer/chop-shop owner involved in organized crime and drug cartels, goes into a junkyard where an alien creature has just brutally killed at least one person, in order to find his dog that had bolted off into said junkyard. Before leaving, he gives his prized Mercedes to one of the protagonists and tells him, "You gotta know who your friends are, kid. Gotta stick up for them. Think on these things."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Rick, two of his gang members, and one of the local priests go to the scrapyard not long after the spaceship hits it to look for the missing father of one of the gang members. They find him and two others alive, pinned under debris, but Stinger attacks before they can do anything and it's never confirmed whether or not anyone rescues the three workers.

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