Book Review: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

cover to joe hill's strange weather
© William Morrow, 2017.

Synopsis:


A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.” (Source: Goodreads)

Review:


Strange Weather is the first bit of fiction I’ve managed to snare by Joe Hill. I heard some pretty great things about his work, but it’s possible I took those praises a little too much to heart. Rating this book doesn’t come easily. To quote what I told a friend on Twitter, reading Strange Weather felt like an attempt at chewing the gristle on steak. That is, wrong and uncomfortable, but not in a good way. I’ve decided to divvy my review up based on each storry.

Snapshot

“Snapshot,” though a bit lacking in style, is one of two stories in this small collection that I found myself capable of tolerating. I figure it’s because this short tale embodies a sort of Twilight Zone and Night Gallery feel. It read the quickest out of the four stories and I found myself nearly in tears at its conclusion, so the best I can say about it is that I either felt something, or my emotions went bonkers again.

Loaded

The second shorty story in Hill’s collection, “Loaded,” is a bunch of driveling bullshit, for lack of a better word. I’m all about our Second Amendment Rights; I even have a cup that says “Don’t ban guns, ban idiots,” but this story encompasses the stereotypical idea that every gun owner or enthusiast is a batshit crazy blowhard that’s just looking for a reason to go off. I have friends and family that appreciate this machinery, that agree people should under go background and mental wellness checks prior to purchase of a fire arm, but this? This story just adds fuel to a fire that seeks kindling via blame on inanimate objects, rather than the person behind them. The main guy of “Loaded” shows us exactly how restricting gun ownership will fail so hey, better hurry and make it entirely illegal right? Oh, and let’s not get started with the over-saturation of Social Justice Warriorness in this piece. I’m all for equality, but this? This just reeks of extremism in a way that I almost abandoned the book as a whole.

Aloft

“Aloft” is by far the best in this collection of short stories. An embodiment of the collections title, the main character encounters something unusual while fulfilling a dead friend’s promise and from there, things really take a turn for the bizarre. While I feel Hill gives us a bit too much exposition in this tale, there are many things about it that I feel should be appreciated. For instance, the next time anyone asks me what it’s like to have ulcerative colitis, I’ll probably ask them if they’ve read “Aloft”‘ by Joe Hill, because let’s face it: the torment Aubrey goes through gastrically (is that even a word?) in this story is a pretty damned accurate depiction of the suffering people with Crohn’s and Colitis endure.

Rain

The final story in Hill’s collection seemed like it could have had a loft of potential. “Rain” further supports the title of the collection when a torrent of crystal nails fall from the sky to impale poor, unexpecting citizens. So what’s the problem then? “Rain” is so fundamentally flawed that it’s just… no. First, Hill is more obsessed with making fun of Trump in this story than the events that occur. This isn’t a bad thing – I absolutely loathe Trump, especially considering his policies may very well shorten my lifespan significantly. “Rain” is more a mockery than the story it could be. At least the twist at the end was fairly amusing, but by that point all I could do is roll my eyes in frustration.

Conclusion

Joe Hill’s Strange Weather is probably a poor choice for first time introduction to his work. In fact, it’s almost a deterrent considering it’s the first book by him that I read and I was ecstatic about receiving a review copy. It is with a bit of a heavy heart for the sake of disappointment that I am forced to conclude my review with a largely poor rating. Part of my compliance with FTC guidelines as a reviewer requires that I disclose when I read a free book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. In this case, I’d like to thank Edelweiss and HarperCollins/William Morrow for this opportunity.

Rating: 💀💀


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