Monday, January 07, 2008
books: 20th century ghosts, by joe hill

Ever since my first Girl Scout overnight camping trip I've been a sucker for scary stories, and Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts is one of the most original and entertaining collection of them I've read in quite some time. Some of the material here is certainly standard horror fare - "Best New Horror" is creepy and disgusting and "20th Century Ghost" is your basic ghost story, although a far better version of it - but Hill also tries his hand at science fiction, fantasy, and the surreal. Actually, several of the stories aren't scary at all - "Pop Art" is a touching story of an unlikely friendship and "Better Than Home" is a sweet father/son tale - and it's this versatility that I found to be one of the biggest strengths of the collection. Some of the most interesting moments for me were "And You Will Hear the Locust Sing" - a 21th Century version of Kafka's Metamorphosis, "Abraham's Boys" - a vampire story meets Frailty, "My Father's Mask" - the ending of which blew my mind, and Voluntary Committal - a brilliant novella that explores the old theme of Alice's rabbit hole and asks what would happen if a traveler could never return from it. After reading this collection it's easy to see how Hill was able to land a book deal so quickly, and after reading both 20th Century Ghosts and Heart-Shaped Box (his debut novel) it's clear that he's still a far better writer of short stories than novels. In any event, this is an excellent read and I'd strongly recommend it, even if horror isn't typically your thing.

20th Century Ghosts
Joe Hill
2007, 336 pages

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Blogger Steve said...

Man, wouldn't it suck to be Stephen King's son and NOT get the scary-ass -writer gene?

If this lineage keeps up, Joe Hill IV will, in 2070, write a book that actually murders people.

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