Posts Tagged ‘Joe Hill

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.

 

 

 

 

 

09
Jan
17

“There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out.” CBR9 Review 3.

unknownI have to wonder how long it would have taken the general public to figure out that Joe Hill was, in fact, Joe King, if the news hadn’t come out on its own. I feel like — and this is not necessarily a bad thing — Joe Hill exists as the world’s greatest Stephen King impersonator.

Hill shares many literary strengths with his old man. They are both great at creating a community of real characters, and bringing small, New England towns to life. They both thrive when putting the mundane, everyday details of life down on the page. They give you real people to root for in a dire situation, and they break your heart when sometimes these real people don’t survive until the end of the story. They both love Bruce Springsteen. Especially Jungleland.

Unfortunately, junior King also shares some of his dad’s weaknesses. Sex scenes are not comfortable to read. Dialogue is often clunky. And for some reason, both of these guys have trouble sticking the landing. Their endings are often clumsy and confusing.

But the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. I’m not going to stop reading Hill — and there’s no way in hell I’m going to stop reading his dad. The stories are just too good.

The Fireman tells the epic tale of the end of humanity as we know it. A plague has come to end life on earth — a spore of unknown origin is causing people to break out in a dragon scale pattern on their skin, which eventually causes them to smoke, catch fire, and combust, taking down everything around it: other people, buildings, trees, everything.

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a young school nurse named Harper Grayson sees a man burn to death on the playground outside her window, and her world changes forever. Schools close, society breaks down, and the world quickly divides itself into the healthy and the sick. Harper volunteers at the local hospital, where hundreds of dragon scale victims are quarantined, with no hope of ever being released back into the world.

Harper and her (HORRIBLE) husband, Jakob, talk about ending their lives before letting the plague take them. But when Harper realizes that she’s pregnant and infected, she changes her mind, and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive.

Meanwhile, things between Harper and Jakob go from bad to worse. The morals of the town are quickly deteriorating. Ordinary people are killing their infected former friends and neighbors. And a strange entity known as The Fireman is going out of his way to help the infected, including Harper, find safety.

Eventually, Harper discovers a secret group of infected folks, hiding out at the local summer camp. And these folks just may have found out how to manage — but not cure — this disease. So far, so good. Exciting, dystopian story with engaging characters.

And suddenly, the book switches gears. And I’m not sure I liked this part as well. Now its a story about life in a cult…how leaders and followers are made and how group thinking is never a great idea. I didn’t dislike any of this part, and realize that it was necessary to the plot, but it went on for hundreds of pages, and was definitely the weak link for me.

Here’s what I did love about this book. I loved that Harper was a strong woman who was willing to do whatever it took to bring her child into the world, even if that meant she couldn’t be the child’s caretaker because she had the dragon scale.

I loved the supporting cast of characters. Renee, Nick, Allie, Don, and Gil were folks you wanted to root for, and were nervous that something might happen to them. Because this is a Joe Hill book, you pretty much assume that not all of your favorites are going to make it to the last page, and you grieve them when they’re gone.

I really liked the disease. This was the second book I’ve read in the past few months in which the end of civilization is brought about by a spore (the other book is The Girl with All the Gifts), and its evolution was fascinating.

And I liked the random use of Martha Quinn as the ultimate savior of humanity, playing fun 80s music while she saves us all.

Here’s what I didn’t love.

I didn’t love The Fireman. I wanted to like John Rookwood, but he simply fell flat as a character to me. I never bought that he and Harper were in love, or even really liked each other. He was really just kind of an obnoxious ass who could do some cool things.

I didn’t really get Harper’s obsession with Mary Poppins. It was honestly just kind of weird.

I hated Jakob and his band of murdering brothers. I hated Jakob the minute we first met him, on the phone and saying crap about the disease, and couldn’t wait for him to die. I know that’s horrible to say, but HE WAS THE WORST. And The Marlboro Man? Awful. I know we needed some bad guys, especially some who represent the new Trump America, but I hated every single second that these guys were on the page.

And here’s what I’m on the fence about: the constant references Joe puts in his books to the universe of books created by his dad.

In this book alone, we had quotes from Jungleland (just like The Stand). That’s fine.

We had a deaf character named Nick. OK. Fine.

We had a horribly fat, awful, sexist creep named HAROLD CROSS. This is almost too much for me to deal with.

But Harper and her friends found a case of Nozz-a-la cola, and that worked for me just fine. Because that meant that this story took place far away, on another level of the Tower.

I’ll leave you with Springsteen’s Jungleland. Because if one song can be partially responsible for both The Fireman and The Stand, it must be pretty good.

 

 

 

 

17
Jun
13

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Reviews 24 & 25: Double Feature by Owen King and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Unknown-1I didn’t plan to read these two books right after one another. And I didn’t originally intend to compare them to each other, but really, I couldn’t help it.

Stephen King’s sons are both fine writers, and they each have a certain gift for storytelling. Joe has proven in his earlier works (Horns, 20th Century Ghosts, and Heart Shaped Box) that he’s practically a chip off the old block –he takes some horror, mixes it with real life, and often has trouble wrapping it all up in the end, just like dear old dad. But I didn’t mind, because usually (although I must admit, I barely remember Heart Shaped Box) the first 2/3 of the story was worth it. Owen was more of a mystery to me, as I hadn’t read his previous book of interconnected short stories.

Both books had one thing in common: a main character who proved themselves VERY difficult to like or care about. But other than that, they completely stand on their own.

I think of the two, I slightly preferred Double Feature. DF is the story of Sam Dolan, son of B-movie actor Booth Dolan. Sam has lived his entire life resenting his father and attempting to step out of his shadow and make his own name in film. As the story begins, young 20-something Sam writes and directs his first movie. Its a terrible experience for Sam, one that ends up changing his life forever in many ways. I wasn’t too invested in this part of the story, and when King suddenly jumped plots and timeframes, I welcomed it. The book continues along, telling the story of Booth and Sam’s mom, Sam’s childhood, and Sam’s life 10 years after his disastrous film project. We meet a cast of outlandish characters: a crazy (literally) assistant director, a construction contractor who can’t stop adding on to his own house, Sam’s insane step mother, Sam’s teenage half-sister, his sloth-like roommate who won’t go outside the apartment, a lunatic catcher for the NY Yankees, a former college girlfriend, and a college janitor who becomes famous for all the wrong reasons.

The book was well written and I enjoyed the time and POV changes. While it wasn’t a laugh-out-loud book, there were parts that made me smirk and smile…I might classify it as a satire.

On the other hand, we have NOS4A2, Hill’s huge vampire novel. I didn’t dislike it, but was surprised that I kept putting it down and wondering what else I had to read instead.

Teenage Vic McQueen has a special bike that takes her to a magical bridge that doesn’t exist. When she crosses the bridge, she can find things. Her mom’s bracelet, her friend’s cat, or even answers to the questions she’s beginning to have about her sanity. On one of her final trips across the bridge, she comes across Charles Manx, an ageless monster who has a magic trick of his own. Manx uses his Rolls Royce to drive to Christmasland, where children live forever in complete innocence. He abducts them from their parents (who are then usually raped and murdered by Manx’s lackey), and drives them to Christmasland on the roads of his imagination. Vic and Manx cross paths and she becomes the first child to ever escape from him, which he doesn’t forget — even after he’s dead.

Of course, Vic grows up and has a child of her own. Vic battles addiction and sanity, always wondering if the trips she took over the bridge in her youth ever actually happened. When she finally feels she’s getting her life back together, Manx comes looking for her and her son, so that he can take him to Christmasland. And finally, that’s when the book started moving for me. Too bad that it was about 2/3 of the way through. And the ending was great, too (unlike Horns and many of daddy’s books).

Hill is a great storyteller. But I think his little brother is a better writer. And I’ll keep reading whatever the family writes (I just got Joyland and will be reading that soon) to see how and if they continue to influence each other.

 

 

 




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