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20th Century Ghosts [Kindle Edition]

Joe Hill
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (314 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.99
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . . .

Francis was human once, but now he's an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . .

John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . . .

Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of '77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . . .

The past isn't dead. It isn't even past. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After the release of Hill's acclaimed novel Heart-Shaped Box, this collection of his short fiction, originally published in Britain two years ago made its way to the United States. Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, runs a diverse gamut that includes some unapologetic chillers along the lines of the book's title story. Yet the essence of his material could best be described as a hybrid that connects the ironic twists from episodes of The Twilight Zone with the angst and vulnerability of childhood and adolescence. David LeDoux, whose previous audiobook credits include Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus! and Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, demonstrates an especially keen knack for capturing the cadence of teen and young adult male speech patterns, with equal parts deadpan cool and quivering tension. Hill's novella Voluntary Committal provides a sublime experience of jarring suspense and compelling family drama. Admittedly, a few of the briefer works may leave listeners longing for more fully developed story lines, but Hill consistently manages to evoke emotional responses and provoke unsettling questions, which makes for a worthwhile experience.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“This solid, inventive, scary collection of stories reveals a writer who has thought hard about the problematics of horror.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 743 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000W916P2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,211 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
102 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and True November 8, 2007
Reading is a collaborative event. When the collaboration is good, the story resonates inside, touching on some emotion or history that the reader brings to the table. The very best stories are fresh and specific, though, so simply tapping into pop culture or tired archetypes won't work as an authorial technique. The story has to touch something deeper. It has to be true.

In bypassing pop clichés, the ending of a truly great story should be a surprise--not because of a trick, but because in telling the truth, the clichés get left behind.

I was three stories deep in Joe Hill's "20th Century Ghosts" before I decided that I was reading the freshest, most surprising, truest speculative fiction I'd read in decades. Each piece in this book is a gem. "Best New Horror" is a formulaic tale about an editor who's tired of formula stories. The last paragraph of the tale takes an exhilarating turn that struck me as poetic--completely reframing the story. "Pop Art" is the most unusual, touching piece of fiction I can remember. The title is a pun, and the story is absurd. How could it leave me in tears? "Better than Home" is an odd father-son love story. What is a story about baseball, uncontrollable saliva, dead bodies under a covered bridge and the joys of throwing peanut shells on the steps doing in a collection of horror tales? Fitting in quite nicely. Every tale here belongs.

Critics often say, "I couldn't put the book down." I put 20th Century Ghosts down a half-dozen times, asking myself, "How could this guy be so damned good?" Do yourself a huge favor. Buy 20th Century Ghosts and "begin collaborating" with this most talented author.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 15 wonderful, original and bizarre stories October 16, 2007
Joe Hill has received many, many awards. This book was originally published in Britain by PS Publishing in 2005, and it won the British Fantasy Award, The International Horror Guild Award, and the Bram Stoker Award for best collection. He is also a 2006 World Fantasy Award winner, for his novella Voluntary Committal, which appears in the same book. He is the author of Heart Shaped Box. Joe, 35, is the son of authors Stephen King and Tabitha King.

Twentieth Century Ghosts contains 15 of the most severely bizarre and original stories ever conceived. Hill has been influenced by Malamud and Kafka. These tales are the stuff of Twilight Zone, seriously creepy and macabre, full of spectral and often perverse violence. Any parent other than Stephen King might be very concerned.

I think my favorite was "Pop Art," a fable of an inflatable teen, and his best friend, who happens to have a nasty father with a vicious dog. Or maybe it was "Voluntary Committal," where seriously schizophrenic Morris Lerner, builder of elaborate basement cardboard box mazes, helps out his older brother by getting rid of a nasty pal.

"Most of my stories are really that simple. They're built around the collision of the real and the impossible..." from an interview with Joe Hill by Daniel M. Jaffe on the web site Biblio Buffet.

NOTE: Many of the stories feature threatened children. If this sort of thing bothers you, stay away.

Armchair Interviews says: Read this one with the lights on.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Debut, Imaginative Short Fiction October 18, 2007
Before "The Heart-Shaped Box" hit the bestseller charts, Joe Hill released this book as a limited edition short story collection. It won numerous awards in 2005--Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, British Fantasy Award for Best Collection, and the International Horror Guild Award for Best Collection--all before Hill was "outed" as the second son of novelists Stephen and Tabitha King.

The 14 stories included outshine his debut novel, featuring a wide variety of protagonists and situations outside of the norm in horror. In fact, not every story has supernatural elements--several stories here originally appeared in "literary" journals. "Abraham's Boys" is a post-modern twist on Van Helsing, while Hill updates Kafka with "You Will Hear the Locust Sing." The most disturbing stories, however, have no blood and gore, such as mind-freak "My Father's Mask." The novella that concludes this collection, "Voluntary Committal," is one of the most haunting novellas ever written. This edition also contains the short story "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead," which was not previously published in the UK edition.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunted Characters, Haunting Stories... May 18, 2008
So the cat's out of the bag now that Joe Hill is one of Stephen King's sons. Well, no such thing as nepotism here, because this is an absolutely beautiful book--definitely on my list of favorites.

Hill wears his influences and inspirations on his sleeve. "You Will Hear the Locust Sing" is like Kafka's The Metamorphosis set during a 1950's giant bug movie. "Abraham's Boys" is his take on the Van Helsing character from Dracula. "The Cape" is both a realistic character study and a superhero origin story. "20th Century Ghost" is a nostalgic homage to both film history, in general, and Steven Spielberg, in particular.

Yet, none of the stories ever feel derivative or lazy, because Hill always manages to add some new or unexpected twist. Many of the stories are disturbing, some are even shocking, but they also manage to be humorous, warm, and tender. There's authentic emotional depth in these tales. I can't manage to make it through "Pop Art," the absolute masterpiece of the collection, without crying every single time.

The title couldn't be more accurate, because these stories all feature characters that are haunted--haunted by their pasts, by inner demons, by troubled childhoods, and horrible secrets. Identity seems to be the common theme that connects these stories--how do we decide who we are? Is it a gift (or a curse) from our families? Do we decide ourselves who we are? Do we embrace our secret self (You Will Hear the Locust Sing, The Cape), do we run from it (Best New Horror), do we hide from it (Voluntary Committal)? Are we predetermined to become our parents (My Father's Mask)?

Hill displays incredible talent in this book. I can't wait to see what he produces in the future. In the meantime, I highly recommend this one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this and pretty much everything else Joe Hill does
Love this and pretty much everything else Joe Hill does. Some of these are obviously better than others but if you enjoy dark / horror short stories this is a must buy!
Published 3 days ago by E. B. Patterson
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read!!
Another Joe Hill was an easy choice for me. Loved this collection. He definitely saved the best story for the end!
Published 5 days ago by Diane Dever Pucker
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
Very good imagery and discription. Many of the short stories let me wanted more, which is a good thing. However, I expected more based on the past reviews.
Published 5 days ago by An Elite
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid collection from Joe Hill
This is a brief collection of short stories, and not a stinker in the bunch. My favorites are "Pop Art", "In the Rundown", "The Cape", and "Voluntary... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Thrak360
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific un-put-downable stories in here
I feel as if I have discovered a trove of Stephen King books!! Joe Hill has inherited a fair amount of skill, wordsmithery, and especially the creepy vision of his father. Read more
Published 12 days ago by ameliasgramma
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing short stories. You can really sense his father's style in the writing only fresher.
Published 16 days ago by Kevin Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible
If you love horror stories, you will LOVE these. Each one is so different and intriguing. There is one particular story that I LITERALLY had to stifle a scream, it shocked me so... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Missy Richmond
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Book was in great shape. I'm very happy.
Published 16 days ago by D. Powers
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your usual short story collection
All the stories are written by Mr. Hill but they range widely in their focus, from a boy who turns into a giant locust to a strange younger brother who builds forts in which people... Read more
Published 17 days ago by D. Kersten
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
Poignant, thrilling, suspenceful, spectacularly thought provoking.
Published 22 days ago by Danyel
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More About the Author

The author of the critically acclaimed Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill is a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, and a past recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship. His stories have appeared in a variety of journals and Year's Best collections. He calls New England home.

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The paperback lists for $13.99, Amazon had it ON SALE, possibly as a promotion or an overrun. Doesn't obligate them to reduce the Kindle price. So you're going to pass on a fine collection at the usual Kindle book price because the paperback is a bargain? Boy, that'll sure show 'em, eh.
Jan 18, 2013 by Johnny Hodges |  See all 2 posts
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