Paul's Reviews > 20th Century Ghosts

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
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Jun 04, 2010

really liked it

Joe Hill is quickly becoming one of my new favorite writers. After reading Heart Shaped Box, I was looking forward to going back and trying some of his short stories that were compiled into 20th Century Ghosts.

While mainly a horror writer, 20th Century is interesting to read because you can tell Hill was testing his writing skills using many different styles. Some of the stories are traditionally “spooky” while others are merely literary snippets.

For me, two stories stand above the rest. “Better Than Home” doesn’t really offer a complete story, but I really enjoyed the characters and I’d like to see Hill bring them back in a full novel. The narrator is a highly functional autistic child and his father “deals with his issues” in a positive and nurturing manner. Hearing the story from the son’s viewpoint, some portions of the narration are well thought and meticulously described and others are manic and confused. The internal dialogue is a great mechanism for showing how an autistic mind might function. Both father and son would make great heroes in a horror novel.

The second notable work was “My Father’s Mask.” With shades of Poe and Lewis Carroll, it was a psychological twister. This story is, once again, narrated by a young boy whose parents undergo a transformation while wearing masks at their weekend cabin. Their odd behavior, surreal elements and the brutal ending makes this an overall disturbing tale that’s going to stay with me for some time.

If you’re interested in Joe Hill, I’d recommend that this not be your introduction as it isn’t a fair representation of the level of writing he’s doing now. However, if you’ve already decided you like his writing then this is an interesting look at how he got to where he is today.
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