I’ve read almost every piece of work that Joe Hill has graced the world of literature with, and I’ve loved all of them, but this was exceptionally brilliant. Rather than dwell on monsters and ghosts, the most terrifying aspect of Strange Weather was simply the horror of the human psyche, and how far people will go to inflict pain upon others.
I’ll be breaking this up by story, as I typically do with novella reviews. I’ve combined the content warnings and will add them all at the end of the review, for efficiency’s sake. I’m placing these in order of how they are positioned in the ARC, but the final copy may differ.
SNAPSHOT – ★★★★☆
The idea that these days had been taken from her struck me as vile. It was a swallow of curdled milk. It was indecent.
Snapshot, the first of four novellas, tells a man’s boyhood memories of the strange man with the polaroid, and the bizarre things that each photo took along with it. I found this to be my least favorite story in the book, though it was still awfully horrifying to think of a camera that could take away more than just a photo. I found myself undeniably on edge from start to finish, and found it to be an unsettling, unique entrance to the collection.
LOADED – ★★★★★
All it took to turn a CD into a knife or a tape gun into a .45 was a little imagination, a little panic, and a lot of prejudice.
I have no words for how stunned I was when I realized what a blatantly political direction Joe was taking this story in. Loaded is a perspective-changing story that follows in the wake of mass shootings, and tells of police brutality, racism, gun fanaticism, and hate. The villains in this story are so over the top that you find yourself desperately wanting not to believe in them, despite the fact that, as a citizen of the southern states, I can certainly assure you that I have heard many of these arguments from acquaintances in my own life.
(Note: I’m not interjecting politics into this, and will leave my thoughts on gun ownership out of this, but we’ve all met at least one person who took things too far, and that’s what’s happening in this story.)
Loaded absolutely destroyed me. I have never in my life cried through a horror story, yet I could hardly regain composure in one moment before the next event had me sobbing again. The hatred in the villain’s heart left me hollow. This was the most horrifying story I have ever read, yet not a moment of it felt like fiction, particularly in the wake of the shootings we’ve seen over the last few years.
ALOFT – ★★★★★
Everything gets very surreal when you’re falling from twelve thousand feet.
First of all, if you have a fear of heights, this story may not be one you want to take lightly. I don’t even have acrophobia, and I still found my stomach turning at many of this story’s descriptive moments. When Aubrey’s skydiving experience goes wrong, he finds himself in a very interesting set of circumstances, and… well, I’ll let you go into this one blind, but trust me, you’re in for a really unique (and bizarre) ride.
RAIN – ★★★★★
When the rain fell, most everyone was caught outside in it. You wonder, maybe, why so many people died in that initial downpour.
In Rain, we watch the beginning of an apocalypse through the eyes of a young woman named Honeysuckle. As a rain of crystalline needles kills Honeysuckle’s girlfriend and nearly all of her neighbors, she sets off on a journey to inform her father-in-law of his daughter’s passing, only to be hunted by members of a local religious cult. As she tries to navigate the empty streets of Denver and avoid being slashed to bits by the next storm, she finds herself in a spiral of terrorism conspiracies.
Like Loaded, this story hit way too close to home for comfort, though not on nearly as intense of a level. Joe let his politics shine through once more with a few catty remarks about a president who’s a little too twitter-happy, and I found myself laughing despite the nature of the tale. Of course, you’re never left smiling for long when it comes to a Joe Hill book, but I found this to be a fantastic rounding-out of the collection.
All in all, Strange Weather averaged out to a 4.75 rating, which I obviously will happily round up to 5 stars for my favorite horror author. Now, I’m only sad that I have to wait for his next release!
Content warnings: fat-phobia, ableism, homophobia, racism, police brutality, gun fanaticism, sexism, spousal abuse, child death, extreme violence, religious fanaticism/occultism.
All quotes are taken from an ARC and may have been changed for the final publication. Thank you so much to HarperCollins for providing me with this ARC in exchange for my honest review!