Thursday, December 18, 2008
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
I'm always worried, when discussing Joe Hill, that people will assume that any praise directed at him will be poorly disguised affection for his father (Stephen King).
Not true, of course. If he sucked, I'd say so. Not to worry, tho' - he doesn't. As a matter of fact, while I'd say his Pop has the advantage in novels, Joe (dare I say it?) gets the nod in short story writing.
Not every story here is 'horror', not by a long shot. 'Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead' has nothing whatsoever to do with physical death, focusing instead on regret and the mourning for a romance that slipped away. 'The Widows Breakfast' reads like something out of Steinbeck, and 'My Father's Mask' and 'You will Hear the Locus Sing' are . . well, arty I suppose (which translates to: I didn't understand or like the pair very much).
DNA being what it is, horror and the macabre does have its place in his work. 'Last Breath' was short but powerful, 'Abraham's Boys' was a solid homage to Dracula, 'The Cape' had a wicked twist at the end, and 'The Black Phone' was a great, frightening piece about a child in danger.
The best story, the one that left me literally saying 'wow' and securing Joe Hill as 'one to watch' in my eyes? 'Pop Art'. It's the story of an inflatable boy and his flesh and blood friend . . .yeah, I know. It sounds like a farce or absolute dreck. It isn't. It's warm and touching and darn near a tearjerker. A wonderful, wonderful story.
Not only do I recommend this book, I think you're a fool if you don't already own it. Why are you wasting time here? Jump over to BN.com and order it already. You won't be sorry.