17
Jan
18

In which Joe Hill takes one step closer to becoming the world’s greatest Stephen King impersonator. CBR10 Review 7.

Unknown-4I’ve said this before: I can’t imagine it would have taken very long for the reading public to figure out that Joe Hill was really Joe King if he hadn’t admitted it himself. And in each book of Hill’s that I read, I see more and more of his dad in the writing.

In fact, if you told me that two of the four novellas in Strange Weather had actually been written by Uncle Stevie, I would just nod, and say, “of course they were.” Because I feel like the first and last stories — “Snapshot” and “Rain” — really were King stories that Hill just reworked a bit. And that isn’t a critique. He took them and made them his own.

The other two stories — “Loaded” and “Aloft” — were more original. “Aloft” was my least favorite of the four, and I still liked it pretty well. “Loaded” was the best of the bunch, but I didn’t really like it at all. But I’ll get into that in a minute.

“Snapshot”

In a very King-like premise, a lonely boy comes across an evil man with a magic (demonic? otherworldly?) Polaroid camera. Every time he takes a picture of someone, he takes a memory away from them. And if he takes enough pictures, eventually nothing will be left in their memories at all. Can a fat 13 year old boy stand up to this evil man and his crazy machine?

Well, of course. Having an awkward kid stand up to evil is one of King’s go-to plot devices. But just because I knew what would happen didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.

“Loaded”

Man, this was a rough story. It upset me over and over again. But that was the intent. Hill really wears his politics on his sleeve here (JUST LIKE HIS DAD), and here he wants to discuss gun control. Or, really, the lack thereof.

A loose cannon security guard stumbles into a domestic shooting, makes racist assumptions, kills innocent people, and convinces himself it was for the greater good. He then goes and gets himself MORE guns and does WORSE things, all while playing the part of a hero on the national news.

The end of this story was not at all what I expected.

SPOILER

I should have known that the good guys wouldn’t win. This isn’t a book by Janet Evanovich.  The last few pages of this story were literally gut-wrenching. And made me wonder just what in the fuck is going on with guns in the country.

“Aloft”

Kind of a throwaway story, but still fun.

During an attempt to skydive in memory of their recently deceased friend, a small group encounters a mysterious cloud that looks like a UFO. The most anxious of the skydivers actually ends up landing on that cloud and being stuck there for several days and thousands of miles.

Ridiculous, and yet…a poignant look at unrequited love, friendship, social anxiety. And a nice break after the darkness of “Loaded.”

“Rain”

What would happen if the rain could kill you? And what if the killer rain had been created and released to the world by terrorists?

Taking place in Boulder (WHERE ELSE WOULD THE APOCALYPSE TAKE PLACE?), with a kick-ass heroine named Honeysuckle, she sees her entire world come crumbling down with the first killer rain storm. She sees her loved ones die in pain and she is overwhelmed by grief. But she keeps on going. She wants to do what’s right. She’s awesome. And just like in a Stephen King story, Honeysuckle is surrounded by normal people just living their lives. Good people, like her new ultimate fighting friend, and horrible assholes, like the weird cult down the street. Writing about regular people in irregular circumstances is what Hill (and King) do best.

And, like his dad often struggles with, Hill does not stick the landing with this one. And I could have done without real-life references to Trump and his tweeting (except, this quote was spot-on:

It was reassuring to know that our national leaders were using all the resources at their disposal to help the desperate: social media and Jesus.

It reminded me a lot of an old King story (“Rainy Season”) about frogs raining from the sky. But I liked this one a bit more than that.

 

 

 

 

 


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