“20TH Century Ghosts“, by Joe Hill, re-published in 2007 after its 2005 limited production in the UK (and the 2007 release of his best selling “The Heart Shaped Box“), has garnered some great street cred over the past two years. This collection of dark shorts received the Bram Stoker Award, the British Fantasy Award, the International Horror Guild Award for best collection, and the last story in the collection, “Voluntary Committal,” won the 2006 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.
Despite being very well written, I wasn’t charmed by all of the fourteen stories, mostly because of my confusion by the lack of “horror” in many of the pieces. I was quickly reprimanded…er…reminded by those who know me best, that I tend to be rather single minded in my consumption of the extreme end of horror. (If there’s no blood splatter can it reeeaaallly be good? C’mon…) Of the 14 stories, my favorites included “Best New Horror“: An interesting horror-story-comes-to-life featuring ‘Button Boy’, a kidnapped kid with buttons sewn with wire into his eyeballs to keep his “…life trapped inside” and “The Black Phone“: A tale about a boy trapped in a basement by a serial child molester/killer who gets advice from a dead previous victim over a disconnected phone. (Surprise! They’re the more violent pieces in the book and hmmm…co-incidentally both involving abducted children…)
That said, it was one of the lesser violent and more fantastical pieces that stuck with me as the most memorable; “Pop Art“, an odd story about an inflatable boy, Art, who runs into trouble at a new school and town for being with “different”.
With the diversity and range of horror mixed with doses of fantasy and realism, Joe Hill provides a disturbing story for every temperament. I, for one, am looking forward to sinking my teeth into his first novel (“The Heart Shaped Box“) after consuming these tasty shorter tidbits!