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Strange Weather: Four Short Novels

Review

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels

What a treat, just in time for Halloween, to have Joe Hill’s latest book in hand! In STRANGE WEATHER, readers will find not one but four stories, varying from frighteningly realistic to imaginatively weird. These short novels are confidently written and diverse page-turners, demonstrating Hill’s literary range and skill.

The first tale in the collection is “Snapshot.” It tells the story of a young and lonely kid named Michael Figlione, who, in August 1988, confronts a mysterious evil in the form of a memory-stealing camera wielded by a man he calls the Phoenician. The Phoenician comes to 13-year-old Michael’s attention after he uses the camera to rob Shelly Beukes of her memories and her mind. Shelly had been Michael’s babysitter and caregiver for years, a fact that Michael ironically all but forgot. She loved and cared for him unconditionally, and as he is reminded of that fact, her recollections of their relationship are being destroyed by the creepy man with the camera. But Michael is a thinker and an inventor, and as he is reminded of Shelly’s affection for him, he grows fiercely protective of her and is willing to confront the dangerous man and the monstrous camera. Michael is the likable loser, and Hill presents his voice with charm and increasing bravery.

"Quite entertaining, STRANGE WEATHER is a perfect autumn read --- not so dark as the deepest winter but chilly enough to require a cozy spot and inspire a few long nights of total absorption."

Bravery and heroism are also themes in “Loaded.” But here what makes a character brave is up for debate. While “Snapshot” is freaky and can be classified as horror, “Loaded” is realism at its most terrifying. Randall Kellaway is a mall security guard. When gunshots ring out one morning, he finds a bloody murder scene in one of the shops. But his love of guns, his carelessness and his prejudices result in even more deaths before the police arrive. Kellaway does his best to cover up his awful mistakes, and the story he tells convinces many that he is a hero.

Journalist Aisha Lanternglass, her own life shaped by racism and gun violence, knows something isn’t right and sets out to investigate the so-called hero, his background and the events at the mall. Kellaway is a man with nothing to lose, and Aisha becomes the target of his impotence and rage. Many of the characters in “Loaded” are gun enthusiasts, making this a cautionary and moralistic tale. The many strands of the characters’ lives here are woven into an amazingly taut and provocative novella. “Loaded” is the best story in STRANGE WEATHER.

Both “Aloft” and “Rain” are fantastical, setting ordinary characters into extreme situations, testing them physically and emotionally. The protagonist of “Aloft” is a young man, grieving the death of his friend, who has agreed to parachute from a plane in her memory (and, more importantly, to impress a woman named Harriet). Aubrey Griffin finds himself stranded on a solid cloud, floating far from where the plane landed, and completely alone. He soon realizes that the cloud is somehow alive and can read his mind, allowing him to live out his fantasy with Harriet. His time in the sky, however, gives him a chance to reflect on his feelings and deeds, and to take the kind of action he normally would not be brave enough to take.

In “Rain,” Honeysuckle is also in love. But her love is reciprocated, and her girlfriend is finally moving from Denver to Boulder to be with her. But just as Yolanda arrives with her belongings, a storm of crystalline needles rains down from the sky, killing her and many, many others across the country. Honeysuckle is left alone in a sharp post-apocalyptic Colorado, mourning but also trying to survive. Like “Aloft” and “Snapshot,” there is a lot of humor and much sadness in this story.

While nowhere near as scary as NOS4A2 or HEART-SHAPED BOX, or as epic as THE FIREMAN, STRANGE WEATHER holds its own. These stories are fresh and unique, even when exploring some not-so-unique themes and tropes. The handful of black and white illustrations by four different artists gives the book something special. Quite entertaining, STRANGE WEATHER is a perfect autumn read --- not so dark as the deepest winter but chilly enough to require a cozy spot and inspire a few long nights of total absorption.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on October 27, 2017

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels
by Joe Hill

  • Publication Date: October 24, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062663119
  • ISBN-13: 9780062663115