Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Book Bite - 20th Century Ghosts

Well, I've finished another book, so it's time for a quick book bite. This time around I snacked on another collection of short stories - 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill - and it was very satisfying. I had actually wandered into a bookstore and was looking for a copy of Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. A clerk noticed me stalking the aisles aimlessly, asked if I needed help, and I mentioned I wanted to check out Joe Hill, but wasn't sure if I would like his stuff. She recommended his short story collection to me, and I'm so glad she did. (One more reason that bookstores are more fun than shopping online...)

The first three short stories in the collection were knockouts. As a fan of all things horror (movies, books, etc.), I smiled and sympathized along with the protagonist of the first story "Best New Horror". An editor of horror story anthologies, he bemoans the lack of any really scary or really original horror stories...until he finds it. The story then went from amusing, to absolutely terrifying, all while being self-referential to the horror genre. Loved it.

Hill's writing is not as gory as some horror can be. Most of the stories were haunting, chilling and frightening, but at times also sad, sweet and even romantic. For example, "20th Century Ghosts" was a beautiful modern ghost story. While "Pop Art" was surreal yet touching and sad. I wish I could talk in detail about "Abraham's Boys" but I wouldn't dare ruin it for you. It is about a demented father, raising his two sons to continue his evil deeds. The question is, are they evil deeds, or are they, in fact, saving the world? What's nice is that the author leaves it up to the reader to decide. Another favorite of mine was "The Cape", an unexpected superhero story.

For the horror genre, I found Hill's writing style to be more elegant and haunting than most other horror authors, which was a pleasant surprise and definitely to my tastes. All of his stories, event he ones that didn't particularly work for me, were very engaging. I will definitely be picking up Heart-Shaped Box and anything else he's written.

As an aside, I appreciated the artistic detail of the book, with its soft velvet finish cover, shiny metallic film with ghostly image, to the rough-cut unfinished edges of the pages. It was nice to hold an artistic presentation worthy of the stories contained within.

Also, as another aside, Joe Hill keeps an entertaining blog. The link is listed to the right under the heading "Other blogs I visit..."

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