20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, A Review

Joe Hill’s collection of short stories range from disturbing, to clever, to the slightly romantic. There are 15 stories (16 if you include the story hidden in the acknowledgments). There is one story that is barely 2 pages long, (which was one of my favorites) some that are around 20 pages and the last story in the book is about 50 pages. In other words, there is variety here. And it ranges from the grisly for hardcore horror fans to the delicate for those who *may* have more refined taste.

Something that equally was enjoyable for me and irritating was how Hill would just end some stories. They would end suddenly, leaving me wondering what happened in the final act. In some, most really, this created a strange dissonance for me and my feelings for simply wondering what happened. It really created a fear in the unknown.

Two of the stories really stood out to me. The last, Voluntary Committal, and the third, Pop Art. Pop Art made me feel sentimental about the plight of youth, especially young boys and the way children interact. It was about a young boy that was basically a balloon, an inflated body of plastic and elastic. And a strange friendship between him and a boy that thought of himself as the tough kid but it turned out he really needed this friendship. This was not a scary story, not in the general sense of what counts as scary. Rather it was a unique way to look at the way we treat those with differences in this harsh world. I loved it.

Voluntary Committal was the longest story and also the most intriguing. Another look at youth centered around male siblings and a friend that is not entirely wanted. This story was very creepy. Hill has a way of taking a child’s game and turning it into something real… with real consequences. And that is scary, to me at least. It’s also incredibly insightful and clever.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in a variety of spooky stories. Also if you want to get to know Joe Hill. I feel like some of these stories really reflect some of his other work, particularly NOS4A2.

Thanks for reading my review and Happy Reading!!!

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