A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters. A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead. Two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality. All take place in this collection of short stories from Joe Hill, son and collaborator of Stephen King.
[Hill] is already so good at endings of the unhappy variety. Shocking, terrible, whoa, cover-your-mouth-and-gasp endings. Endings that are perfect and yet a page early, arriving before you’re ready. Endings that tear off the story’s edge, leaving it ragged and bloody, leaving you wanting more. So yes, Hill has a way with endings ... Also beginnings. Often middles, too, his stories pushing you along with the intangible dread of a fable, pulling you forward with the inexorable logic of a mathematical proof. Lots of dead bodies, very few dead parts — among Hill’s many talents is his ability to braid together his strands ... never a formula. More like a worldview. Hill’s universe is for the most part very bleak, but it has a moral coherence to it, a sense in which things make a kind of sense, however perverse ... in his very best stories, Hill gets to moments of lyricism, of pain or connection or both ... While all of Hill’s experiments with form are inventive, some work better than others ... At times, Hill tends to explain his own premise (all the more a shame because he’s usually set it up so deftly), offering up one more spoonful of explication than necessary ... And once in a while, the moral math of Hill’s cosmos can get a little one-to-one, the syllogism plodding forward, the reader’s mind jumping ahead to see the next equation in the proof. This is nit-picking, though, and it’s made easier because the few imperfections stand out against Hill’s otherwise seamless and finely crafted work.
There aren’t many writers out there who are as thoughtfully scary as Joe Hill ... The truth is that it would be easy to expound at length upon just about every one of these stories. Hill’s narrative gifts are tremendous, and he unleashes them here to full effect. His ability to construct such sturdily delicate plots, both solid and subtle, is a joy to experience. He creates worlds in which we can’t help but immerse ourselves. It’s impressive enough that he can do that world-realization in his novels; to do that within the relatively limited parameters of short fiction is doubly so. The journey is taut and fraught and emotionally charged; the destination is visceral and surprising and both exquisitely chosen and utterly unexpected. He earns every shocked disbelieving headshake he gets - and there are a few ... What you might not expect from a book of scary tales is how funny they are. Hill’s wicked sense of humor isn’t omnipresent, but when it pokes its s—t-stirring little head up, it makes a big impression. He’s clever, but not overly so; there’s none of the performative neediness you sometimes get when a writer tries to show off. There’s nothing needy or show-offy about Hill’s work; it’s more than strong enough to exist on its own terms ... an outstanding collection of work from the pen of an outstanding writer. Joe Hill began his career trying to step out of his father’s shadow, but that time has long passed. He’s not standing in the long shade anymore, if he ever was. Instead, he’s casting a shadow of his own, one that grows longer with every exceptional offering.
Hill returns to short stories where his terrifying genius most brightly shines ... Every piece is driven by anxiety and unease and features Hill’s trademark characters, who feel absolutely real. But it is also the sense of place that dazzles ... Hill lulls the reader into deep enjoyment, even as terror lies just around the corner. He rounds out this superb collection with insightful notes and a surprise fourteenth story hidden in About the Author ... This is a collection of single-serve, immersive horror for fans of collections by Paul Tremblay, Stephen Graham Jones, Samanta Schewbin, and Elllen Datlow’s anthologies.