Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Short Stories for the Once Upon a Time Challenge's not Monday. Or even Tuesday. But I finished Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts (336 pgs., William Morrow) and I wanted to write a wrap-up review of it. And I do have to say, it certainly was a treat to read!! I've been very lucky lately to find some real gems when it comes to Short Stories. I read this book because a) I've been dying to read something by Joe Hill and b) it fit the category of "Folklore" for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge.

Short Stories are so hard to review because there's just not that much to them. I've already posted on 6 of the stories I've read. That leaves 9 left un-reviewed. I really enjoyed all the stories, although some exceedingly more than others. So I'll hit the highlights with the final 9.

The Black Phone is probably every parent's (and kids) worst nightmare. John Finney was waiting for his father on the front step's of Poole Hardware store, drinking a grape soda. An average, boring kind of day. As he was sitting there, a man was trying to get his groceries in a van across the street. When he dropped his grocery bags, John ran to help him out. Everything was fine, until he let his guard down and the man sprayed him in the face with something that temporarily blinded him. The next thing he knew, he was shoved in the van and driven away. It seems that the "Galesburg Grabber" had struck again. 4 boys had already disappeared, never to be seen again. One of them, John knew. It was a boy he had played baseball with. You never think this kind of thing could happen to someone you know. And you especially don't think it could ever happen to you. John was put in the basement of the man's house, with only a mattress and a black phone. Unfortunately, the old fashioned black phone wasn't even connected. But that didn't stop it from ringing....and messages from the boys who had already disappeared coming through the wires.

The Cape is the story of Eric, a young boy that liked to play superhero. He had made a cape out of his old blanket....and even had his mom stitch a red lightning blot on it. When he was climbing a tree one day, the branch beneath him broke. And to his and his brother's amazement, Eric didn't fall. With the help of the cape, he was suspended in the air. At first. Eric ended up falling and had to be hospitalized. Right next to his brother, who decided to try out the cape for himself....and ended up falling off the roof. With all the accidents, their mother decided the cape must go.....but when Eric finds it 20-years later in a closet, the magic is still there.

Last Breath is the story of a doctor who "captures" and stores the dying breath of people. He runs a museum of "silence" for people to listen to the last breath of others. Most people laugh, until they hear for themselves that there really is something inside all of those seemingly empty jars......

My Father's Mask is an incredibly disturbing little story that is like a nightmarish version of "Through the Looking Glass". Jack's parents pack up the car for a weekend away. It was a last minute trip and Jack isn't exactly happy about being whisked away. The family is headed to the family cabin on Big Cat Lake to meet with an "appraiser". Jack's mom tells him that they are in trouble. They are in deep money trouble, and the "playing card people" are after them. Jack must be careful because they can't let the playing card people see him. They are "so flat they can slip themselves under doors". They are dangerous. At first, Jack thinks this is all a game, until they reach the cabin and he sees all the masks. When the appraiser comes, Jack realizes it isn't antiques that is being appraised!!

Finally Voluntary Committal is the journal documentation of what actually happened in the disappearance of Eddie Prior. He was Nolan's friend, until something bad happened between them. And Nolan just wanted him to go away. Nolan's little brother Morris made it happen, although no one would believe it. How can it be possible that Morris had created a gateway into another world?

I was so impressed with each story in this collection!! Joe Hill has an amazing talent for telling a story. These stories are all just a little creepy, and a lot fantastic! The one thing Hill seemed to gleam from his father, is his gift for the surprise ending. There were a couple of stories, like The Cape and Dying Breath that left me with my jaw dropped!! Not at all what I was expecting. And that's a good thing. I really hope to read more from Joe Hill, starting with Heart Shaped Box. If his novel is half as good as his short stories, I'm sure I'll fall in love with it!! 4.5/5


Anonymous said...

I have this book in my TBR pile. I keep reading great reviews about it...and need to hurry up and read it for myself!

Debi said...

Cannot wait to read this! Thanks Stephanie!

Carl V. Anderson said...

This one is definitely on my list. I do love the short story genre.

Melody said...

Can't wait to get a copy of this! Great review, Stephanie!

Ana S. said...

Short stories are indeed hard to review, but let me tell you, Stephanie, you do a great job!

I've added this one to my mental list for RIP later this year...can't wait!