Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Rating: ★★★☆☆-

Synopsis

In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including “In The Tall Grass,” one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.

A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in “Faun.” A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in “Late Returns.” In “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” 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 . . . and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths. And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in “Throttle,” co-written with Stephen King.

Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears, and demonstrates this exceptional talent at his very best.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Full Throttle in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the collection.

Short story collections are typically like boxes of chocolate: you open up a box, try a piece, you either like it or you don’t, and you move on to the next. If you don’t like the first handful, you either scan the box for a last hope or you toss the rest of the box in the trash. Every now and then, there is a box that has a fantastic assortment and each piece is as good as the last. Full Throttle, unfortunately, was not that box.

I have been a fan of Joe Hill for a couple of years now, having read and enjoyed NOS4A2, Horns, and The Fireman, as well as his graphic novels including Locke & Key and Wraith. These are some fantastic examples of Hill’s talent for originality, story, horror, and character creation. I have also read some of his novellas (all are included in this collection) that include By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain, Throttle, Twittering from the Circus of the Dead, and Wolverton Station. Each of these received 3-4 stars from me on their own merit and gave me hope going into Full Throttle as to Hill’s talent for the short story.

Having said that, while Hill has natural writing talent and ability, I don’t know if I am a big fan of his short fiction after finishing Full Throttle. The two (2) unpublished stories did absolutely nothing for me, and re-reading the same novellas I had previously finished didn’t increase my enjoyment of the collection.

Who’s Your Daddy, which is the prologue story of the collection, gives us a glimpse into Joe’s childhood, growing up with Stephen King as a father (who wouldn’t want that?) and set the rest of the book up for success. Throttle, which was co-written with King, was one of the better stories which tells a story of revenge with plenty of grit and blood. Dark Carousel, which was previously released as a vinyl, gave me great King vibes and was one I thoroughly enjoyed. Wolverton Station is about werewolves on a train. Can’t go wrong with that. In The Tall Grass, co-written with King, was this collection’s saving grace for me. I had not read it as a stand-alone when it was previously released in 2012, but it has been on my radar for some time now. It is creepy AF and is being turned into a Netflix original (because we can’t get enough Stephen King or Joe Hill right now). It reminded me of Stephen King’s “N.” and was an almost perfect ending Full Throttle.

Otherwise, peeps… I was underwhelmed. I actually skimmed over a couple of stories due to lack of engagement and slogged through a few more, knowing there had to be one or two left that would bring this collection back up to snuff.

If you enjoy Joe Hill’s short stories, or haven’t had a chance to read any of them because you prefer print over ebooks, give Full Throttle a shot. Like I said, there are some stories to love in here, but there are also some you may shrug at.

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