Strange Weather is a collection of 4 Novellas written by Joe Hill who is Stephen King’s son. You can tell while reading his books how much influence his father has on his writing. King Sr. is known for creating such detailed characters that you can anticipate their reactions to things in the story and can tell what their motivations are very clearly. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors and one of the things I love about him is how I can settle comfortably (even when I’m terrified of the story) into one of his novels like I am visiting an old friend. While I never know what to expect idea wise with him, I always know what kinds of characters and dialogue I’m in for. When reading Strange Weather as well as Joe Hill’s novel The Fireman, I felt like I was reading a book by Stephen himself. That isn’t a bad thing but I would be curious to know how he would feel knowing some of his readers can’t tell the difference necessarily between his writing and his dad’s. Before I move on to my review, I have to say I listened to the audio version of this book. It was hard to gauge how long each story was, and because of this my mind wandered quite a bit. I wasn’t engaged in all of the stories like I had hoped. Some of the narrators could have been better and many of the accents or characters phrasing felt forced and inconsistent. On the whole, my biggest complaint is that these stories were so LONG! They each felt like they could have ended earlier or had less details and the story would have remained the same or been better in some cases.
In this first story, every time a natural ending seemed imminent, the story took another turn and continued on. One of my Twitter followers said that they had read this too and it broke his heart or something to that extent. I didn’t get that feeling. Snapshot is “the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent (Michael Figlione) who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.” It started as a very promising story about an old woman, Shelley Beukes who helped raise Michael while working as their housekeeper. She had dementia and it seemed to be progressing quite rapidly. In one of her assumed dementia episodes, she tells the Michael, “Don’t let him take your picture. Don’t let him start taking things away.” He just writes it off as crazy talk until the day he runs into the infamous Polaroid Camera holding “Phoenician” at the gas station. I’m not sure if it was the unexpected length of the story or what, but I was so bored. At first I was really into it! But as time went on I was just hoping for it to finally end. Actor Will Wheaton is the narrator and he does a good job but I found myself laughing out loud at his inconsistent version of South African accent for one of the characters.
The next story in the book was Loaded. It starts off with a young African American girl and her cousin walking home from school when after a series of events; her cousin is shot and killed by a police officer. This murder leads her life down a path into journalism and we meet back up with her some years later when she is covering a big news story about a shooting in the mall. Side Note: The audio narrator used the most off putting voice when doing the part of the African American characters. I get that he was trying to differentiate between the characters, but it was over the top. Loaded is about “A mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out of control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.” OK reading that you probably think that sounds kinda good right? Wrong. The story goes into far too many unnecessary details about the sex life of the mall shooter and her (yes I said her) victim. I didn’t need half the details given to understand her motivations. Then there are far too many details about Kellaway (the bad guy ) too. I get that Joe was trying to immerse us into the characters but I felt like saying “Get to the point!” Once the story finally gets going at the end however I was ready for it to be done. It got EXTREMELY violent. I’m not sure if it’s the times we live in or what, but reading about major violence is not for me these days. Also, saying this story makes the mall cop into a hero for the modern gun rights movement is a bit far-fetched. Unless I spaced out while listening, I don’t recall this being a big plot point. Loaded ended at the right moment for me though. Right before another act of unspeakable violence was about to occur so I am going to imagine a happy ending and move on.
This one was actually kind of fun. It was so silly and out there that I bought into the fun-ness of it. “A young man named Aubrey takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump…and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s Island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own.” This one I enjoyed! Finally! It was just so out there and unique and that’s my jam when it comes to reading. Surprise me with a cool, original story and I am super into it!
The last story in the book called Rain was my favorite. It was apocalypticky (just made up a new word!) and had a sort of evil genius/terrorist vibe to it. “On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails-splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. It explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.” So cool! I found myself thinking about this in such depth as to make a list of places that would be safe to go if I lived in this story. It made me think about long term solutions and how the world would survive if we had to live in the constant fear that any rain cloud would kill us during a storm with its killer splinters. I loved that in the story news reports were flooding in about these strange killer rain clouds and how people were even killed when hiding in their vehicles because the splinters tore through the roofs of their cars. I loved how the world had to come together to figure this out and try to find a solution. I wasn’t a huge fan of the main character in the beginning because she feels very stereotypical in the characterization she is given, but I really liked her by the end. She was strong and smart, plus her bravery is what leads us to the end of the story. This story was highly enjoyable and is the reason for any stars at all for me. Well, Aloft was OK too so let’s say this story was 1.5 and Aloft brought the rating up to 2.
Happy reading everyone! If you decide to pick this one up let me know. I would love to hear your differing or similar opinion.
A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.
“One of America’s finest horror writers” (Time magazine), Joe Hill has been hailed among legendary talents such as Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Lethem. In Strange Weather, this “compelling chronicler of human nature’s continual war between good and evil,” (Providence Journal-Bulletin) who “pushes genre conventions to new extremes” (New York Times Book Review) deftly expose the darkness that lies just beneath the surface of everyday life.
“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.
A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”
On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.
In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.
Masterfully exploring classic literary themes through the prism of the supernatural, Strange Weather is a stellar collection from an artist who is “quite simply the best horror writer of our generation” (Michael Koryta).