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I “discovered” Joe Hill somewhere back around 20th Century Ghosts or Heart-Shaped Box. I don’t recall which I read first but I think I read them pretty close together. I’ve eagerly snatched up his new books as they’re published ever since, which isn’t something I do with most authors. I’m a library girl and have been all my life; I’m generally happy to wait until I stumble on a book in the stacks, either virtual or physical. But I’m always eager to see where Joe Hill is going to take his readers in his latest book and so I get my name on his hold list ASAP. I even requested copies of his Locke & Key graphic novels from across the state when I realized my local system didn’t have the entire series. I can’t say I’ve loved everything he’s written (I’m looking at you, The Fireman), but by and large I enjoy myself thoroughly when I’m lost in a new Hill read and find myself impatiently awaiting the next.
Full Throttle did not disappoint.
Any collection is going to have stories that appeal to specific readers more than others but this was remarkably consistent. There’s a lot of creativity here, a heckuva of lot of good writing, and some genuinely disturbing stories. The entries that appealed less to me were still strong but they were either too disturbing for my taste or I just didn’t like a character who was written to be unlikeable. What can I say? I’m largely a character-driven reader.
That’s a good stopping point, so move on if you’d like, but I always like to include short reviews for each story as well.
“Throttle” (with Stephen King)–I read this years ago in He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson. I found it to be the standout story of that collection and it stood up well to a re-read. The suspense was there even though I remembered a lot of details, including the ending.
“Dark Carousel”–Hill says this is the most “shamelessly Stephen King thing I’ve ever put down on paper” and then says it’s “practically a cover of ‘Riding the Bullet’ or ‘The Road Virus Heads North.’ I wouldn’t go that far. I still get worried about The Road Virus every so often when I’m home alone and in the shower, but “Dark Carousel” was creepy enough in that same looking-over-your-shoulder way.
“Wolverton Station” was probably one of my least favorite stories mostly because it was more of a vignette than a story with a strong plot. It is a very visual story though and those images may stick with me for a while.
“By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain” was written for an anthology honoring Ray Bradbury. I haven’t read that much Bradbury (I know! I know! But he’s on a lot of school reading lists and, despite enjoying English classes themselves, I disliked almost everything that teachers made me read. I’m contrary that way. I’ll get around to giving him another try someday), but from what I remember, I see where Hill was coming from here. This is the story that I’ve already re-told my husband as we were hiking by a river and heard something big splashing in the water.
“Faun”–It’s impossible for me not to say this is Narnia gone wrong, and Hill does mention that legendary land in his story notes, but he feels it is influenced more by Lawrence Block, who I’m not familiar with at all. It was a bit of a mind-blower for me (I couldn’t help thinking of Mr. Tumnus) but I liked that.
“Late Returns” was a story with a concept that will appeal to most readers. This is in the vein of the “20th Century Ghost” story.
“All I Care About is You”–I enjoyed this while I was reading it and even chewed over the ending for a bit after finishing it. Yet when I got to the author’s notes on each story at the end, I had to go back to remind myself which one it was. This was probably the weakest entry for me.
“Thumbprint”–Joe Hill understands that sometimes–often–reality is scarier than fiction. This was the one with unlikeable characters doing despicable things. While I can’t say I enjoyed it, that wasn’t the point.
“The Devil on the Staircase” may read better in print than on an ereader. The actual print is apparently laid out in a pattern like a staircase. This was another weak story for me. I enjoyed the imagery and the concept, something about it just didn’t appeal very strongly to me.
“Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” got progressively more and more horrifying. Holy smokes.
I’m going to say that “Mums” is another one of those reality stories that is scary as hell. There are some supernatural elements to it, but this is inspired by today’s lunatic fringe groups.
“In the Tall Grass,” also written with Stephen King, was just plain disturbing. I haven’t watched the Netflix movie yet and after reading this, I honestly don’t know if I will. I can see that it would make a great movie but I’m a great big chicken when it comes to watching horror movies. If the movie follows this story, I wouldn’t sleep for a month after watching it.
“You Are Released” is the last story and the last one that is firmly anchored in today’s world. I found it strangely bittersweet, despite the fact that it made me think about how easily civilization as we know it could collapse.
Other horror novels that I’ve enjoyed (that weren’t written by Joe Hill or Stephen King) are:
- I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
- The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (which wasn’t my favorite but I do like this review)
In looking back through my reviews, I realize that I haven’t read much horror written by women. Does anyone have any recommendations? I need to fix this!
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I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.