A Review of 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

This is the first full length book I have read by Joe Hill. My first experience with him were graphic novels based on his attempt at reviving the television series Tales from the Darkside. This book is an anthology of short stories reminiscent of his father’s, Steven King, work.

“Best New Horror” is the first story in the anthology. An editor for a Best New Horror of the year publication is in search of the next great thing. He comes across a story from an elusive writer that blows him away but the search may not be leading to exactly what he expected and sometimes real life is the scariest story there is.

“Pop Art” is not exactly a ghost story in the conventional way but it is very strange. It is the tale of a young boy who befriends a new kid at school who is a plastic boy full of air and the hazards that come along with the possibility of popping.

“You Will Hear the Locust Sing” is about a boy who loves insects so much that one day he wakes up realizing he is one. What does one do with these new found powers and the prejudice that comes with being a giant insect?

“Abraham’s Boys” is the story of a family with a secret dating back to medieval times. Abraham realizes the time is now to tell his boys what that secret entails and their future responsibilities.

“The Black Phone is about a kidnapping gone wrong, with victims reaching out from the grave and a sister projecting telepathically from across town. The black phone is a disconnected phone with a connection that’s out of this world.

There are many other stories in this anthology but the ones listed are some of my favorites. These were really fun to read and the writing was excellent. Joe Hill has inherited his dad’s talent to not only write about ghosts, but also the monsters within. And not all of his stories are scary. They are also about relationships: reconnecting, finding one’s self amidst the chaos of life and loss.

My only real criticism for the installments in this collection is that many of them have ambiguous endings that aren’t always easy to read. I’m not a huge fan of narratives that leave things up for interpretation. I think that more solid conclusions would’ve helped. Some of them read more like the missing chapter, or beginning chapters, of a longer book.

I give this one a 4 out of 5. I love short story collections but sometimes it’s better to be more familiar with a writer’s larger body of work before one jumps into the collections. I would recommend this book to any fans of Joe Hill or Stephen King as it fits right into their style and I intend to read the rest of Hill’s novels in the near future.

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A Review of Tales from the Darkside The Graphic Novel by Joe Hill

My previous review covered the Tales from the Darkside Scripts which were the scripts for the failed revival of a new Tales from the Darkside series no network would pick up. After it was decided that these tales would never become the hoped for series it was decided that the scripts would be published and since Mr. Hill had previous comic book experience, the scripts were then turned into a graphic novel.

The first story is about a man who sleeps through life and finally gets a chance for atonement. The second story is about the host and cryptkeeper style guide named Brian Newman and how he came to be the Darkside guide. Although in this graphic novel version he is more of a protagonist trying to keep the darkside from rising and taking over the world. The last story is about 2 children who are obsessively plugged into their tablets and use them to antagonize their babysitter.

There are things about this graphic novel version that are quite a bit different than the scripts. The scripts are more in depth, whereas the graphic novel versions are more abbreviated. As I mentioned earlier, Brian Newman’s story arc is quite a bit different. What I didn’t care for is how they stuck his story in the middle. It would make more sense and have greater continuity if they would’ve placed Newman’s story at the beginning, the sleepwalker in the middle, and the crazy kids at the end. Because with the children’s story he is at the point of trying to change the course of the darkside events. As it is, you can figure it out but to me it came off more muddled.

I give this one a 4 out of 5. I liked it and Joe Hill’s concepts for this new series was awesome. But this was a testament to the fact that my imagination is always better than what someone else can come up for me. The script versions were definitely better. But if you are someone who doesn’t love to read and prefers visual media then this is a great throw back to the Tales from the Crypt comics. I think anyone who is a Joe Hill fan should give these a go.

 

A Review of Tales From the Darkside The Scriptbook by Joe Hill

I have not read a Joe Hill book yet but I have heard a lot of good things about him. I was gifted this book because I am a huge fan of the old Tales from the Darkside television show. Joe Hill was asked to write the scripts for 3 pilot episodes of a revival of this show to pitch to networks for a new generation. Two of those episodes were actually filmed. All of the networks that were approached with this project turned it down. The project organizer, rather than just let the project die, decided that these episodes needed to see the light of day so the scripts were published.

These three tales deal with bad people getting their comeuppance. One story is about a couple of bad kids who harass their babysitter. Another is about a man who mostly sleeps through the important things in his life. And the final story is the tale of Newman, the cryptkeeper like host who guide these characters through their own personal dark side events.

I really really liked these episodes and I think it is a real shame that a network wouldn’t pick these up and greenlight them. The original release date was supposed to be in 2015. Another project that has gotten shelved is the Tales from the Crypt reboot. In our current cinematic climate, with horror being an important and popular genre in television, it would be a perfect time to revive some of our favorite horror anthology series like this. I hope they eventually become shows.

I give this book a 5 out of 5. These are a bit cheesy, but they definitely are in the same vein as some of our favorites from the past. If you are a fan of the original series and other old favorites like “Monsters” this is just the book to take you on a quick jaunt to the past in horror entertainment.

A Review of Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard T Chizmar

Gwendy Peterson is a chubby little girl just finished with the 6th grade. For the first time ever, that school year it came to her attention that she was fat when a mean little boy named Frankie Stoner started calling her Goodyear, like the blimp. The mob mentality of children enticed others to join in and the teasing hurt her on a deep level. There is a cliffside in her town of Castle Rock with a set of 305 stairs to the top called The Suicide stairs because 2 people since the 1930s have committed suicide by jumping from those stairs. Gwendy decides to start running those stairs every morning that summer and watching what she eats. She doesn’t want to start middle school as the fat girl. Mid summer she reaches the top and a mysterious man is sitting on the bench at the top. He entrusts her with a box that has 2 levers and 8 buttons. This encounter sets her on a path that changes her entire life.

This novella is really short. It has short chapters and some intermittent illustrations that help to break up the narrative. I read this book in just a couple of hours. Part of this was the short length. The other part was that I just couldn’t put it down. I started this book at bed time thinking I would read a couple chapters but then I found that it was 11 pm and I was done. Every single page kept me interested and wanting more. The jumps through time are very well written and each time I was immediately excited for if she was going to push a button or not.

At the end of this book I was satisfied but at the same time left wanting just a little more and I think that is the hallmark of a author. They can wrap up a story but still leave you wanting just one more little bite. I give this one a solid 5 out of 5 and recommend it to all king fans. Some of King’s best work isn’t in your face horror, and this novella is definitely that. Do yourself a favor and dedicate a couple hours out of your day to devour this one. You won’t be disappointed.

A Review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling

This is the script book based on the theatrical movie written by JK Rowling. Newt Scamander is a rescuer of fantastic beasts in the wizarding world. His goal in life is creature conservation and to do this he is working on a manuscript about creatures about fantastic beasts to shed light on them so that witches and wizards will no longer fear them but respect them. This is a precursor to the Harry Potter series taking place during the time period of Dumbledore’s fabled wizard battle with Grindewald.

This book is essentially the movie but because it is also a script is has stage notes that shed some light onto the scenes. Sometimes an actor will portray a look and the director is satisfied but that doesn’t mean the audience knows exactly what the writer was trying to convey with the look. My eyes were opened even further and now I want to watch the movie again.

Newt is an endearing main character and readers and watchers of the movie alike will find it hard not to fall in love with his charming awkwardness. JK Rowling truly outdid herself with the installment. I didn’t think it possible that I would like anything better than the original series but this is now at the top of my list alongside Deathly Hallows! I easily give this a 5 out of 5. Normally I wouldn’t be rereading a book but this only took a little over an hour for me to read and because it incited so many more emotions than the movie did I will probably read this one again and again. I look forward to future installments.

A Review of Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk

Cassie Wright is a porn star at the end of her career. She wants to retire and go out with a bang. Her personal assistant suggests she try to break the record for the most sexual acts performed in one day, by performing sexual acts with 600 men in one day. This narrative is told from the view points of 3 of these men and Ms. Wright’s personal assistant, Sheila.

This is the third novel by author Chuck Palahniuk and once again he proves why he should be crowned the king of the bizarre sides of the human psyche. While his tales aren’t necessarily horror in the scary sense, they are definitely horror in the fact that they are so disturbing that they will stay with you for a long time to come. This is the second story I’ve read by him that delves into the twisted dark vortex of sexual deviancy. Palahniuk has a way of opening up the human mind and showing the readers the real darkness that can lie within.

There is a lot of strong language and extremely graphic sexual scenes dealing with the porn industry so go into this book knowing this. The other thing I noted was that I wish there was at least one chapter told from the point of view of Cassie. We catch a glimpse of her through her conversations with her personal assistant but I felt it could use a bit more.

I gave this one a 4 out of 5. The characters are well developed and though I speculated on the outcome of this plot as it unravelled I was still surprised by the ending. From beginning to end, I kept being shocked by things that happened and it creeped me out knowing that these thoughts and acts could really happen. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Mr. Palahniuk and to those that like to be shocked and are not easily offended.

A Review of HP Lovecraft: The Mysterious Man Behind the Darkness by Charlotte Montague

I’m beginning to think that horror authors from the the turn of the century into the 1930’s must take their inspiration from rough childhoods and nightmares. Lovecraft has said he was influenced by Poe and it seems they were both haunted in many ways. Lovecraft was raised by a single mother who was entirely overprotective and raised him to think he was weak and sickly. He was also raised by 2 aunts and therefore didn’t have much in the way of strong male influences. It was thought, based on things Lovecraft wrote to friends and family about his health and symptoms, that he was not necessarily sickly but quite possible suffering from a form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. From early childhood into adulthood he dealt with and obsessive personality, tics, and fits of fainting and seizures. As he got older he enjoyed great and very close relationships with fellow amateur writers but his one attempt at marriage failed miserably as he was more interested in himself and his friends than any sort of romantic relationship.

This is the second biography I have read written by Charlotte Montague, the first being Edgar Allan Poe. This one was in the same format and just as interesting and entertaining. I really love how the chronology of his works and where he drew inspiration for these stories are woven together with facts from the things going on in his life because you can really tie together how life and various relationships influenced him. Unlike Poe, Lovecraft was able to sell many of his stories for, at the time, hefty sums. But like Poe, he never really gained much popularity in the literary world until decades after his death.

You must be very familiar with HP Lovecraft’s work if you’re going to read this biography though. There are complete plot summaries for most of his major works. While this is fantastic for someone like me who has already read all of his work in the past, there are a plethora of spoilers for those who are just beginning to visit his library. For me, it was a nice reminder of what I have read by him and a fun revisit.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to fans of HP Lovecraft. This is a very in depth exploration of his life and work and I now feel I know so much more than I did before. Lovecraft wrote so many lengthy letters to friends and family throughout his short life that much of what is found in this book is words and revelations from his own mouth and mind.