A brilliant collection of four short novels. This is the first book by Joe Hill I’ve read from start to finish but it’s definitely persuaded me to try some of his longer books. I did enjoy some stories more than others but all were incredibly well done. The shorter format, while frustrating at times (I didn’t want a couple of the stories to end), was used to it’s fullest effect by Hill who somehow managed to pack in a lot of action, well rounded characters and some truly memorable moments.
It’s a bit difficult to rate it as one book so instead I’m going to do some little mini reviews for each of the four stories.
Snapshot – 3.5 stars
This story while not my favorite of the collection turned out to be a strangely emotional read (yes I cried). It’s set in the 1980’s and follows a lonely overweight teenage boy who has a run in with “The Phoenician” a tattooed thug with a polaroid camera that erases memories snap by snap. I think if you know someone who’s been affected by dementia you’ll know how terrible losing your memories can be for both them and their loved ones. This really got to me in a few places as the portrayal of a certain character who’s losing what makes them them was just so real and so sad. As well as being sad this does have it’s creepy and edge of the seat moments. I did however find it a little bit slow in places and I wasn’t keen on the way the story was told from the pov of the boy some 30 years in the future. This is just a personal preference thing though.
Loaded – 4 stars
Despite being written some time ago this story about a mall security guard who courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero seems particularly relevant at the moment. All is not however as it’s being presented as one journalist finds out. This jumps around a little in terms of points of view and time which I struggled with a little particularly at the start but it’s very powerful at times and asks some big questions about racial profiling and gun control. The ending in particular is literally breathtaking.
Aloft – 5 stars
This story of a young man undertaking his first parachute jump only to land on something other than the ground was by far my favorite story in the collection. There was something about it that just instantly drew me in and there was something incredibly likable about main character Aubrey. It was just such an gripping story as Aubrey tries to figure out just what he’s landed on and how he’s going to get out of the predicament he finds himself in.
I loved how we got an instant sense of who Aubrey was and also how the author worked in little flashbacks to tell us how he got to that point and the realizations that he reaches about his life. Plot wise it’s completely unbelievable but Hill makes it seem completely real. My only gripe with this one is that it ended. I want to know so badly what happens next.
Rain – 4.5 stars
This apocalyptic story is the most horrific of the collection but is just sooo good. I find it unbelievable that the author managed to cram so much into so few pages. We have the apocalypse itself in the form of a rain of nails which instantly wipes out large swathes of the population, a bit of semi convincing science behind it, a harrowing journey, a bit of a dig at the current government (and the human race in general) but best of all some great characterization. There are a lot of characters in this one but each and every one of them left some kind of impression, mostly good but more than a few bad. All however felt real despite yet again the unreality of the situation they find themselves in. I did feel the ending was a little bit sudden (hence my knocking off half a point) but otherwise a really enjoyable read.
Overall therefore this is a great collection and if like me you haven’t really read any books by the author a great introduction.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.