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20th Century Ghosts Paperback – September 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“[A] lovely, earnest collection of short fiction.” (Village Voice)
“[O]ne of the best [horror] collections of the year. Hill is a relative newcomer who consistently creates creepy, very disturbing stories.” (Locus)
“Each tale is unique, and the collection proves that Hill’s talent is not limited to horror, but extends well into the mainstream.” (Denver Rocky Mountain News)
“[An] inventive collection . . . brave and astute.” (New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice))
“[A] new take on the fantasy-horror genre...Highly recommended.” (The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia))
“The selections range from the mundane to the surreal, with a strong emphasis on the kind of horror tale perfected by Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub and Stephen King.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“This solid, inventive, scary collection of stories reveals a writer who has thought hard about the problematics of horror.” (New York Times on 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS)
“Each of these chilling tales arrests you from the opening sentence and leads you — trustingly, thanks to the simple mastery of the story-teller — into a place of gulping fear.” (Daily Mail (London) on 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS)
“Subtle and disturbing in equal measure.” (Coventry Telegraph on 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS)
“Irresistible stories.” (Evening Herald (Ireland))
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
The short story titled "20th Century Ghost" is a very good ghost story whereas "Best New Horror" was a very good modern horror story. These two stories were my favorites with "Voluntary Commitment", "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead", "The Black Phone", and "The Widow's Breakfast" not far behind. If you are looking for an enjoyable collection of short stories with a mix of topics, try this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Kind of slow....Found myself skimming ... Maybe its his writing style ( similar to his fathers). I can see why ppl go gaga but just not for mePublished 18 days ago by Ed V.
This is the 3rd book I've read by Joe and have enjoyed all them. It's no wonder though that some of his best work is in short story form since that's how his Dad got started. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Yvonne Graf
Great writer and I would highly recommend his books to other readers.Published 1 month ago by bossyrkm
Joe Hill has inherited his father's genius. Even the stories I didn't like as much were still enjoyable and entertaining. Can't wait to read more of his work.Published 2 months ago by Lionheart
Great book of short stories. I love Joe Hill and always gift this book to friends.Published 2 months ago by PayneB
One of the most intriguing writers since Neil Gaiman! Beautifully crafted stories written with a deft touch and a keen imagination!Published 2 months ago by Tim Tillman
I've already read all his novels so I expected these short stories to be as outstanding as the novels were... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Vincent