Book Review: Strange Weather - Four Short Novels | Joe HillsteemCreated with Sketch.

in #books5 years ago

Now that it's been another two weeks it's time for another of my increasingly irregular review posts. Today, some more horror, which is a little bit odd because I'm (still) not much of a horror reader...

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From EW.

This book, Strange Weather, is a collection of four novellas written by Joe Hill, "Snapshot," "Loaded," "Aloft," and "Rain." It was published by William Morrow and Company in October, last year.

I will provide the reader with a similar preface as with Joe Hill's Twentieth-Century Ghosts: I am not a horror reader. I have read three Stephen King books (one was On Writing, which was very good; the other two were It and The Dark Half, which were slogs), I read Goosebumps when I was eight, I've read H.P. Lovecraft (one day I'll get around to part two of my read-through).

So when I say that Joe Hill is good, I say this as someone who lacks sufficient experience with horror to know what makes a horror book good, and I say this further as someone who is not really designed to be a horror reader - the links horror wants to make aren't the links that are made.

With the caveats of "I don't read horror" and "horror doesn't scare me" out of the way... Joe Hill is good.

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So here I am again, reading Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King, this time him working in rather longer formats. The result is four short novels. Of all of them, "Loaded" is about 40-50 pages longer than the other three (which range from "Snapshot" at 90 pages and "Aloft" at 98 ["Rain" is 97]) at a total of 142 pages.

It is also the most politically charged story. It is not the scariest conceptually (that would go to either "Snapshot" or "Rain") but it is certainly the scariest in the sense that it is the most relevant to the world we live in. It is a tale of gun violence. Of the ugly consequences that happen when people get guns in their hands and take the powers of life and death into their own hands and begin killing.

I will say no more; though I briefly talked a little bit about my political views in my double review of Shattered Pillars and Steles of the Sky, I am fully aware that most of Steemit leans right and that my views on guns, something which is extraordinarily contentious, will be unwelcome.

Suffice to say that "Loaded" is a very, very good story, skillfully woven together from multiple perspectives and touching on a variety of responses to mass shootings.

The other three stories are all exceptional, as well. "Snapshot" is the conceptually scary story, here, as it features a camera which prints out photos of memories, thus removing that memory from the person entirely. It's weaved rather intelligently into a story that is also about old age.

"Aloft" is one of my favorites because the main character, Audrey, is a cellist. In other respects, though, Audrey is someone rather different from the relatively neutrotypical protagonists of the other stories here. He finds himself atop a cloud that isn't. I won't say more, but this eerie story with its strange images and bitter ending, and sweet but sad backstory, leaves a definite impression.

"Rain" takes, as so many other writers have done, rain as its source of fear. Here, the rain is not water but spikes - and the question of who changed the weather to something so fatal has international repercussions, especially given the volatile nature of the American president, unnamed but very obviously meant to be Trump. (In his notes at the end, Hill says that the election of Trump in 2016 resulted in the story taking a rather different path.)

This is a fascinating and worthy collection, one which, as so many of the best horror stories do, uses horror not merely as a source of fear but also as a way to explore the nature of humanity and the psyche of a particular individual, and in doing so become not only a source of fear but of fascination and even beauty.

I'll say it again - I like Joe Hill's writing a lot and I like it a good bit more than anything of the fiction work of his father's that I've read.

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Recommended, of course. They're all fantastic in their own ways. Mine own favorite, if I absolutely had to pick one, probably would be "Aloft." Or "Rain." I don't know! There's only four of them. Picking favorites is cruel and unfair.

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Ahh, it appears you've returned to horror's icy embrace. We'll make a devotee out of you yet.

Hill certainly had the opportunity to learn from the master, and it's nice to see that not only does he pound out good, thought-provoking content, but he's not just aping his dad either.

Maybe maybe. ;-)

It really doesn't get much better then having Stephen King as one's father (and model to work from). That said all the kudos to Hill for choosing to go under a pen name instead of the 'King' name.

I haven't read any of his novels yet. Eventually I'll read some of Stephen King's short stories, too, see if I enjoy those a bit more than the novels...

I'm of the opinion that Stephen King's short stories are nearly always better than his doorstops novels. Most of my favorite works of his are found in his short story anthologies, including The Mist, which is technically a novella, but still.

'The Jaunt' from Skeleton Crew is one of my favorite pieces of his short fiction, along with 'Survivor Type'. :)


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