Book review: Strange Weather

Strange WeatherStrange Weather by Joe Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d easily give Strange Weather four stars, but one of the stories just didn’t work for me. Having said that, this is still an easy recommendation for both fans of Hill and horror in general.

The first story, “Snapshot” has a nice Twilight Zone vibe going on. Set in 1988, it tells of a surly, strange man with a not-quite Polaroid camera that does more than just take your picture, it takes you, a piece at a time. The man encounters an awkward, clumsy, but bright teenage boy and…things happen. It’s better to just read and enjoy the story.

The second story, “Loaded” is about a murderous psychopath who acquires a lot of guns and goes on a shooting rampage and kills a lot of people. And that’s it. In the Afterword Hill describes it as “my attempt to make sense out of our national hard-on for The Gun” and while the story certainly has plenty of guns and gun-related violence, it didn’t work for me, even as I imagine Hill leaning back in his chair, pointing a finger gun at the monitor after writing the last sentence of the story and saying, “Nailed it!” If “Loaded” were a movie, it would be an unrewarding slog, a series of killings that say little more than “a psychopath with guns is probably not a good thing.” I also felt the characters didn’t always act believably. The reporter makes a long string of stupid decisions for no apparent reason, while I think the psychopath would likely have killed himself after one particular event in the story.

specifically after he accidentally shoots and kills his son
The forest fire that serves as a backdrop is maybe meant to be a metaphor, but it could have been cut from the story and not affected it at all.

I did think it was clever setting the story in Florida, though, allowing the character of Kellaway (the killer) to represent everyone’s crime headline favorite, Florida Man.

The third story, “Aloft” is a fantasy involving a petrified skydiver who, on his first jump, lands on a cloud that turns out to be more than just a cloud. It’s funny and weird and the background story that intersperses his travails on the cloud is touching and engaging. The whole story just hangs together tightly.

The final story, “Rain” is a bleak, nasty tale that asks the question, “What if it rained super-sharp shards of crystal?” If you guessed “a lot of people would die”, you’re right! Things tie together a little too conveniently at times and the whole “Comet Cult” group that serve as neighbors to the main character, seem more in service to the plot than being necessary to the story. Still, Hill skillfully paints a truly frightening picture of a world where the weather can suddenly kill. A certain president with a fondness for tweeting insults adds further to the story’s sense of despair.

Overall, Strange Weather is a terrific collection, even if “Loaded” was a misfire (sorry) for me.

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