20th Century Ghosts

20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill, Christopher Golden Well, this was a very pleasant surprise.

I’ve held off on reading Joe Hill for a while now, mainly because I see a lot of people raving about how good a writer he is - which, in my mind, has gradually and lamentably built up into a magnificent, colossal monument to the goddess of hype. Let’s call her Aggrandisia. There really just didn’t seem to be any way that I would enjoy Mr. Hill’s work to it’s fullest without a modicum of head-scratching disappointment (for reference, see every big-budget Hollywood movie ever). So, for a good while now, I’ve desperately tried not to pay any attention - I’ve averted my eyes from Aggrandisia’s piercing, accusatory glare at every opportunity; carefully picking my way past the H section in every bookshop I dare to enter. It’s been a considerable challenge of self-discipline. I probably deserve a medal or something.

However, people just won’t stop recommending Joe Hill to me. So, I figured fuck it and picked up this book.

I am so glad I did. Really. I loved this collection of stories, and couldn’t find a single one that I didn’t enjoy. Hill writes in such a fluent, considered, conversational style, and it just clicked with me right away. It’s a no-nonsense approach that transmits a very clear message: this is all about the stories, not the prose.

Oh, and what stories they are.

If you’re expecting wall-to-wall horror from this collection, you’re going to be surprised. I know I was. There’s no denying that all of the stories have a certain level of darkness to them, but there’s way more here than just regular horror: from a touching story of a haunted cinema, to a tale of rekindled romance on the movie set of George Romero’s 1977 classic Dawn of the Dead (with Romero and Tom Savini both making an appearance - I totally loved this touch!), as well as several wonderfully honest pieces about the trials and tribulations of childhood and adolescence. At times, I really felt that Hill was channeling Ray Bradbury with the themes and twists of some of these stories - and I really do mean that as a massive compliment.

Easily one of the best single-author collections I’ve read in a while. I’m sorry I doubted you, Mr. Hill. I should really go present an offering to Aggrandisia’s altar and beg for her forgiveness.