By Joe Hill
ARC Paperback, 438 pages
2017, William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062663115 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: October 24
Joe Hill delivers four novellas about “remembering and forgetting, falling and fantasizing, homicide and helplessness, guns and the grotesque, wind and rain, living and dying, dreams…and nightmares.”
This collection gave me more feelings than I was expecting.
Since there are only four novellas, I’ll give my thoughts on each.
Snapshot – Don’t let the Polaroid Man take your picture, because once he starts taking things from you, he may never stop.
This story gave me the creeps immediately. There’s an undertone of worry that comes through, even before our teenage narrator picks up on the spooky happenings. Once the Polaroid Man comes on the scene, the story really picks up the pace. Since it’s so short, I won’t say much about the plot, but a story about an evil polaroid stirred up all sorts of nostalgia for me (while also unsettling me) and made me think of that old Goosebumps book, Say Cheese and Die, but for adults. The underlying theme of this story touches on why our memories are so important to us and how they shape who we are.
Loaded – Four people’s lives are linked together and horribly altered after a mall shooting.
I don’t even know how to talk about this story – the short answer is it is highly socially (and politically?) relevant right now, fucked up and painful to read. I was expecting another story where the horror element was magical or unexplained, but unfortunately, the horror in this book was man-made. There are three points of view in this story and four main characters that are seemingly unconnected other than that they use guns or have lost someone to gun use. As the story progresses, the character’s lives are drawn together as tragedy unfolds.
Loaded touches on prejudice and the power guns can give people. The villain in this story was utterly detestable, yet so real. He’s brutal and deluded and as much as I loathed him, his actions weren’t just senseless violence (well, kind of they were) because he believed they were justified. He was truly vile.
The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not over it. I was not prepared for the level of emotion this story gave me and while it was painful to read, I’m glad I read it. I have a hard time declaring something as an “important read” (because I’m not sure I’m qualified to make that judgment), but if you only read one book from this collection, I’d suggest this one.
Aloft – When the engine dies on the plane a group of skydivers is ready to jump from, they’re forced to jump early. One lands on a cloud that’s more than it seems.
I don’t have a lot to say about this story, though I enjoyed it. Our narrator is a little pathetic, joining in a group skydive with the girl he’s in (unrequited) love with to honor a friend who died of cancer, but mostly to be with the girl he loves. He’s afraid and unwilling to jump, but forced from the plane after engine troubles. He lands not on the ground, but a strange cloud that has the ability to mold itself to his desires (there’s some cloud sex; it’s pretty weird) in order to keep him happy.
Out of the four, it’s the weakest novella, but I don’t dislike it. It was an interesting and original idea that I, unfortunately, have few thoughts on.
Rain – Deadly rain begins to fall in Denver, killing thousands with strange, crystal-like needles.
Potentially weaponized rain that falls in the form of sharp, deadly crystals seems like a plausible future to me. Am I jaded? Delusional? Clueless when it comes to science? Sure! But Rain seemed less fantasy-based compared to Aloft and Snapshot. It’s also scary to think about the possibility of normal rain ceasing to exist and how that would cause the decline of humanity, not to mention more deaths every time the crystals fell. I don’t know – it was disturbing and I liked it.
While all the stories do have some freak weather, Loaded feels like the odd man out, though not in a bad way. It was the most emotionally compelling of the bunch and my favorite story, despite the way it made me feel.
This is an excellent collection and my first experience reading something shorter from Hill. If you’re looking for a mix of spooky and sad reads for the season, I think you’ll enjoy Strange Weather.
I won this book from a LibraryThing giveaway in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.