Book Review: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

Strange Weather is a collection of 4 novellas, written by the incomparable Joe Hill. Over the last few years, I’ve become a big fan of Hill, mainly through Nos4A2 (book and show) and the Locke and Key series (comics and show). So when the hubbo brought a copy of Strange Weather home, I promptly stole it.

I started reading this in print and ended up finishing in the audiobook due to some time constraints, so if I mention both versions, please know that I haven’t lost it.

Description from Amazon: “A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative number one New York Times best-selling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.”

Snapshot, performed by Wil Wheaton, 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, performed by Dennis Boutsikaris.

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, performed by Kate Mulgrew, explores this escalating apocalyptic event as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In Loaded, performed by Stephen Lang, 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.

With an afterword from Joe Hill, read by the author.”

Snapshot: This novella was my second favorite of the four. The main character is an awkward kid, easy to relate to, and the problems he faces are both adult and strange. As I read Snapshot, I was struck by the level of painstaking detail. It gave the story a kind of edge that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Loaded: This was my least favorite of the 4 stories. The writing was great, as always, and the characters were well-developed, but the whole thing ended up feeling like a heart-wrenching train to nowhere. 

Aloft: The whole time I read this novella, I got Lovecraft vibes. You have this character dropped (literally) into an impossible environment with almost nothing, and he has to figure out how the heck to get out alive. I don’t want to say too much about this one because I’ll probably manage to insert a spoiler somewhere. But yes, this one is both weird and good.

Rain: This was numero uno for me. When the sky rains crystal needles, the world takes on a post-apocalyptic feel. Most of the story revolves around the protagonist’s journey to her girlfriend’s parents’ house to tell the father that both his daughter and his wife died in the rain. Needless to say, navigating the world as not as simple as it was pre-rain. This novella seemed like the most developed and well-thought-out of the four.

Hill’s writing is top-notch in all four novellas, a tad on the gritty side but not unbearably so. The level of detail he uses just amazes me sometimes. I look forward to more of his work.

If you’re trying to decide whether to pick up the audio version or the print version, I honestly can’t decide which one is cooler. On the audio side, you have amazing narrators like Wil Wheaton and Kate Mulgrew. On the print side, you have the illustrations. Both versions are great.

Link to Strange Weather on Amazon

Next week’s book selection: Batter of Wits by Karla Sorensen (romance)

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