Monday, June 09, 2008

Book Review: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

I found this book to be an impressive collection and for the most part, I have only one complaint when it comes to my version: it lacks a table of contents. 20th Century Ghosts compiles fifteen (sixteen if you count the hidden story) stories from author Joe Hill and each are not only well-written but contain an element of horror in it, be it psychological, supernatural, or both. Hill has a strong sense of character and perhaps any horror story necessitates such a talent or else it might fall flat. However, Hill isn't simply about the horror but rather his technical skill in narrating the story and use of various elements. For example, one of my favorite stories in the collection is "Pop Art" and more or less reads like a mundane, down-to-earth story save for one fact: that the narrator's best friend is an inflatable boy. Throughout the entire story, Hill treats it with all seriousness and respect and at the end of the day, is a story about the human condition that's as dramatic and compelling as any non-speculative fiction story out there. "Voluntary Committal" is perhaps the longest story in the book and Hill uses this space to tell an elaborate story. The main character has two foils, one his supposed best friend, the other his schizophrenic sibling. Much like "Pop Art", this read like an entirely mundane story save for one element that make it fantastical yet nonetheless integral to the story. The titular piece, "20th Century Ghost", is simply well-written and well-crafted, proof that Hill knows how to deliver a good story rather than just relying on shocking endings. Overall it's a solid collection of short stories, especially if you want to read good horror fiction that goes beyond gruesomeness and surprise shockers.

Rating: 4/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.


Anonymous said...

I also enjoyed reading Hill's collection -- a couple of years ago.

Nice review, Charles! I like your blog site, been following it for over a year now.

Jody :)

Charles said...


Been following your comment trail as well!