Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Pub. Date: October 24th, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 448

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense / Paranormal / Horror / Short Stories


A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning. 

Masterfully exploring classic literary themes through the prism of the supernatural, Strange Weather is a stellar collection from an artist who is "quite simply the best horror writer of our generation" (Michael Koryta).

What Did I Think About the Story?

I'm not afraid to admit that I've become something of a super fan of Joe Hill's stories. The audiobook version of his graphic novel series, Locke & Key, is still the best audiobook I've listened to to date and this year alone I've either read or listened to three more, including this newest short novel collection, Strange Weather (don't worry, I've purchased all of the rest, save 20th Century Ghosts, so I'm sure I'll be all caught up by the end of next year). My review of the audiobook version of Horns will post next week in fact.  With each new read/listen my love of the way he can spin a story and awe at his uncanny ability to make something quite horrific feel very down-to-earth and relatable through his complex characterizations grows exponentially. He draws me into these fantastical worlds each and every time and not only entertains me but makes me think about the deeper underlying messages as well. These abilities are all too evident in Strange Weather, four unique and intriguing stories bunched loosely together by the unpredictability and power of weather.

All four of these stories, described accurately as short novels as they really are well developed for such short lengths, had something to keep my attention drawn to the page. Joe Hill leaves no room for fluff and each line is clearly well thought out and developed so you jump into the story and stay along for the ride, nearly breathless, until it's over. They each have satisfying conclusions as well, so I never felt like I was only getting part of a story but was witnessing the progression, from beginning to end, of the odd and horrifying situations each of the characters were going through. I can't really ask for anything else in a story collection and was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed each story as I've never been a huge fan of collections before and typically enjoy one or two stories out of a bunch.

Even having enjoyed all of the stories, my favorite (because there always has to be a favorite, right?) and the one that really got me thinking the most was Loaded. This might be because I've always lived in Florida and so have seen first hand the often backwards way people look at guns and the gun laws here. It could also be because this story in particular seemed relevant and realistic to the often twisting and scary world we currently live in. I won't say too much in case I give anything away, but I will say that it deals with gun ownership and violence, mental illness and the effect military service might have on the psyche of a person returned from active duty, and the immense influence and reach of the media. Like I'm sure you would expect, things get quite out of hand and it really makes you question who should have access to guns and whether guns are needed to protect you from the exact people who maybe shouldn't have guns but do. The last line actually gave me chills!

My next favorite story was Rain, which, while not actually grounded in our current reality (it hasn't started raining crystal nails yet that I know of) there is enough of the realistic to make it seem like something that could happen, which is terrifying. What I enjoyed most about this story was the evolution of the mystery surrounding what - and who - caused the crystalized rain as well as seeing how our current modern world could devolve if this sort of chaos happened. The very worst and the very best would come out of people and it was really interesting seeing just what side of the coin the various characters ended up falling on.

The other two stories - Snapshot and Aloft - were wonderful as well, leaning much more to the fantastical side of things than the realistic. Snapshot is a sort of ode to the 80s, which I loved, showing an overweight, shy adolescent stand up to his fears and grow up a little as he tries to stop a very unusual and sinister man. Aloft was a really interesting way of looking at overcoming fear and learning to move on, both from situations that might not be emotionally good for you and from situations that might actually kill you. I really enjoyed disappearing into these strange worlds and seeing the moralistic sorts of messages within the fantastical.

Strange Weather was my first foray into Joe Hill's short story collections and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.    As I said above I've never been a huge fan of short stories before as they often feel like only part of the story, however this has changed my thinking somewhat and I'm now kind of excited to see what other collections I might find. It seems that Hill's writing translates well whether it's a story under 100 pages, one over 400, or an audiobook to listen to on your commute. He seems to be able to do it all!     

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I actually picked this cover for a Cover Crush post not long ago and like it as much now as I did when I first saw it. I especially love all of the images embedded within the silhouette of the falling man. This is such a captivating cover for me and really highlights the many strange and unexpected elements of the stories you'll find within.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I purchased a copy of Strange Weather for my own library. All opinions are mine alone. For more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase your own copy, see Goodreads HERE.

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