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 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 Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

The narrator of this story is a man utterly bored with his life. Because he feels it has no meaning and we’re all living to pretty much die he can’t sleep. His extreme somnia leads him to visit a doctor so he can get sleeping pills. His doctor doesn’t want to prescribe him anything. He tells him instead to visit a support group for people with serious illnesses. That will put some perspective into his life. Out of desperation, he takes the doctor’s advice. What he finds at these support groups helps. When he sees death right in front of him he suddenly feels reborn and crying in the arms of these people on the brink of death gives him the ability to once again sleep like a baby. Until Marla Singer shows up. He recognizes right away that she is also a “faker” there to feel alive and he knows that she knows that he is also a faker. Suddenly his safe haven is no longer safe and insomnia returns. Until he meets Tyler on a beach. After a night drinking he asks the narrator to hit him. Reluctantly the narrator does and the fight club is born. But after awhile this isn’t even good enough and things start to escalate… chaos ensues.

This is the second book by Chuck Palahniuk that I have read. While this one wasn’t as disturbing as Haunted, this is an exceptional book. I had previously seen the movie many times, so the twist ending isn’t much of a twist for me. It probably isn’t for anyone at this point with Tyler Durden being so deeply enmeshed in pop culture at this point in time. This book was the author’s debut in 1997 and was born from a short story he wrote when he was bored at work one day. Not only is the writing good, but there’s actually some really good social commentary about how we deal with others and our own self involved society.

The only thing I really didn’t like about this book is the abrupt ending. While there was resolution to the major plot, I feel like it didn’t give a real resolution to the character relationships. The end left me wanting a whole lot more and I got excited when I saw there was an afterward but it really didn’t address anything from the story.

I really enjoyed this book. I give it a solid 5 out of 5. I think the social commentary is even more relevant today than it was when it came out 20 years ago. He calls it a single serving lifestyle and in today’s world everything is meant to be thrown away. We are even more self absorbed than we were when it was first written. I highly recommend this book. I think it would make a good book club read as well. There are a lot of social and personal issues worth discussing. It is very graphic in its descriptions of violence and some sexual activity.

A Review of Edgar Allen Poe: The Strange Man Standing Deep in the Shadows by Charlotte Montague

First of all, I just want to say, I’ve read everything by Poe as he was at one time my favorite author. He still is one of my favorites. I thought I knew a lot about his life through the articles I’ve read here and there over the years. I realized that I really knew not much of anything about him. His story is sad and very tragic.

Without getting into too much detail, because this is a book every Poe fan should read, one of the things that really stood out to me was how socially awkward Poe was. He fought with a good majority of his literary colleagues and was somewhat of a ladies man. Though he was fiercely loyal to Virginia, he received quite a few letters of admiration from friends, writers, and poets. He would read these letters to Virginia and they would laugh together. After her death, he couldn’t bear to be alone so began passionately pursuing several women he was acquainted with. The only thing that really stopped Poe from remarrying was his refusal and/or inability to give up drinking.

I was saddened by the circumstances of his death. He died a not very well liked man, clouded by scandals, alone, and in poverty. Though he had gained quite a bit of popularity due to his stories and poetry, he never made any money from any of it. It took him many years after his death to gain the fame and understanding of his genius that he truly deserved.

I ┬ádefinitely recommend this book. It is fully illustrated. It gives a synopsis of each of his more famous stories. There are explanations for things and events happening at the time that help to shed some light on the corresponding events in Mr. Poe’s life. Charlotte Montague wrote a series of these books on different historical figures and I intend to delve into her biography of HP Lovecraft next. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

A Review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the revised edition

I read this book with my Facebook book club, The Writer’s Block: A Book Club. When this book was chosen I was really excited because it’s been a classic on my TBR pile for a long time. This was finally the push I needed to actually get into it. After we voted on the book the next order of business was the edition: The Original or The Revised. I didn’t even know there was more than one edition, so this took some research on my part. I discovered that the revised edition is the version that Mary Shelley herself has proclaimed the true edition, so that is the one I decided we would read.

The basic premise for this story is well known to most people. Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge and the understanding of science. His goal becomes to bring to life one who has surpassed death. He creates a homunculus and then through science brings it to life and the monster is then so horrifying to him that it becomes beyond his control and havoc ensues.

I quite enjoyed this book but more when the tale is told through the monster’s perspective than Victor’s. I feel that Victor is a slightly insane, narcissistic, selfish individual and the monster a victim of circumstance and what the depths of loneliness can drive a man to do. There is nothing worse than rejection and the monster knows nothing but this in its pitiful life even among the destruction it causes.

I don’t feel this book to be much like any of the Frankenstein movie/tv/comic adaptations at all. I came into this book thinking I knew exactly what was going to happen but I was wrong. I think this story is much more of a sad tragedy than a real monster/ghost story. I do recommend this book to lovers of classics but it’s not a book for everyone. It is definitely written in a gothic antiquated style of writing. And Victor is extremely self absorbed so he tends to rattle for chapters on inner monologue.