20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill – Book Review

20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill
William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishing

I believe this is Hill’s first published book of horror-fiction, short-stories. Because of the title, I had expected actual ghost stories but there is only one traditional ghost story within these pages, which shares the same title as the book. The collection varies from visceral horror, to thriller, to weird fiction. It starts splendidly with the brutal tale, “Best New Horror” where a fiction editor picks a violent tale for inclusion in a year-end anthology despite its rawer writing style. Unable to contact the author, he travels by car to the rural home of the writer, only to find, the story may not have been fiction after-all. Next up is the story, 20th Century Ghost, which is a twist on the traditional ghost story, set in a movie theater of a small town. From there we have strange tales which include a modernized, visceral homage to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a story involving the descendants of Van Helsing, a train riding Hobo, a plastic balloon shaped like a real boy, and others. Hill often shows a sense of humor within his tales, through the character’s actions and twists of fate that mirror the unexpected ironies in real life. 20th Century Ghosts is an interestingly diverse collection of strange tales that will keep you reading through the night, sometimes with the lights on, sometimes with a smirk, and occasionally with a teary eye and a heavy heart.