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.


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 Society Builders by Anthony Puyo

I was gifted this ARC by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. As an advanced copy it is also a pre-edited edition.

Society Builders is a science fiction account about a world on the cusp of total technological immersion. There are no more cell phones. Citizens now have usb style chips ported directly into their brains. This allows them to access the entirety of the internet with just their thoughts, including calling and messaging others- all from their brains. Jason Mendes works for the company powering this endeavor, Matson Cybertech. But he is also a double agent working on getting intel for his true allegiance, PAC, an organization developed to stop what they view to be a breach of ethics and morality. Matson’s latest edition, The Thin Chip, may have more behind it than just to bring together humanity- something much more nefarious.

I’ll start with my only real criticism and I don’t want to say much so you can make your own decision once you’ve read it. I really didn’t like how the relationship between the love interests in the book played out. I wanted more and I also thought more time could have been put into developing their relationship. It was sudden and very quick.

On the whole, I quite enjoyed this one. I’m a big fan of sci fi, especially that dealing with future societies and the toll technology can take on them. The thing that really impressed me with the whole concept of the book is how real it seems and the way humanity is evolving alongside tech. In a lot of ways, this story is kind of prophetic and because of that also truly terrifying. I found many similarities and parallels to our current society and the technology we are already trying to develop. Jason is a great main character, he’s passionate about the morals his dear grandmother instilled at him and he doesn’t sway from those even when confronted with things like love and as an every man type he’s relatable.

I recommend this book to any fan of sci fi. If you like things like the Terminator franchise, this will appeal to you. There’s a lot of action and after the first few chapters I couldn’t put it down. I give this a 4.5 out of 5. This was without taking the editing mistakes into account because the author made it clear this was pre-editing review copy. I gave it this score because I really enjoyed the plot but I thought there were a few things that needed more development and I don’t care for how the romantic sub plot played out.

A Review of Sin by Patrick Reuman

In this novella we meet Ryan and Zoey, a couple of high school kids whose friend’s mom has gone missing. The school has an assembly to honor Alyssa’s missing mother. After the assembly the school is dismissed and Ryan and Zoey go back to Ryan’s house to decide what they are going to do over the weekend. Even with a potential killer on the loose, they decide to go camping in the woods behind Ryan’s house.

This is the first book I’ve read┬áby this author and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. At only 80 pages long there was a lot packed in. It was well written and had enough action to keep me reading. I couldn’t put it down. If it weren’t for having to cook dinner I would’ve read it all in one sitting. It may be a quick read but it will not leave you unsatisfied. It even had a twist that I never saw coming. I actually had to read that part twice to make sure I had read it correctly.

The only thing that I would say may turn some off would be the way religion and religious views are handled. Also, it has some pretty grisly scenes and some foul language. I give this a solid 5 out of 5. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to more from this author. I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys horror and suspense and wants a story to get them through an afternoon.