Joe Hill
William Morrow/ HarperCollins
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Years ago, when  I very positively reviewed Joe Hill’s debut collection 20th Century Ghosts some malicious  trolls on the web suggested that I and other critics had written glowing reviews of the book only because he’s Stephen King’s son. Actually, at that time  I had not the slightest idea of who Joe Hill was…

Time has passed, Hill has become a well-respected, successful novelist (Horns, NOS4A2,

The Firemanetc) and now is back with a new collection, not of short stories but of four “short novels”( why not calling them simply “novellas”?).

Once again I will give my honest and blunt opinion of the book, no matter who Hill is or was…

A great collection? Hardly. A good collection? Yes, with some reservations.

Let’s start first with the good news. “Loaded” is an excellent, vivid piece told in a masterful narrative style. A mall security cop becomes an overnight hero after stopping a carnage by shooting the killer. But things are not quite what they seem and the truth will finally get through.

A perfect story ready to be turned in a gripping movie thriller.

In “Rain” Hill seems to be taking literally the title of the Bob Dylan song “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”  Hard indeed, a rain which is not liquid, but made of crystal needles so dangerous they kill the people unable to find shelter. An apocalyptic novella where the author makes good use of an original idea.

The same does not apply to “Snapshot,” in spite of the brilliant idea of a unique camera able to erase memories from people’s brains. The story – told through the eyes and words of a thirteen-year-old fat boy- is overlong and too slow and diluted to remain enjoyable. A short story or a novelette would have worked much better than this “short” ( but not short enough), slightly boring novel.

“Aloft” has a good start, focusing on the terror of a man during his first skydiving experience.

However, when it turns out he’s parachuted onto a weird solid cloud, the situation gets so surrealistic to become absurd and gradually, not only my suspension of disbelief but also my attention got irreversibly lost.

To Hill’s fans the collection will probably be a further treat. For those not acquainted with this talented writer I advise to start with another of his books.