Full Throttle by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on October 1, 2019
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg: 4.13 (as of 2019-11-08)
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Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche.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.
Joe Hill does it again, folks. From the first story, I was absolutely glued to this book. I actually started it just before game 1 of the World Series and, uh, I really just had to finish that short story, y’all. To the detriment of me missing some incredible plays. I don’t know how the man does it — the weakness of short stories is that sometimes it is difficult to develop a connection to the characters or to feel that the story itself isn’t quite fully-formed; this collection doesn’t suffer from either. I found myself gripping the book tightly, bent over it in anticipation as I waited to see what would happen next. Each story managed to elicit strong emotions: anxiety, grief, horror, or some combination of the three. And each story was completely different; I never felt like I would mix up plot or characters, and always felt like I was being given something fresh and original.
Joel looked at her in surprise. “You’re the smartest little girl on this side of the lake. You talk just like you’re reading from a book.”
“I’m the smartest little girl on either side of the lake.”
One of the things that really impresses me about Joe Hill is that he’s able to write such good bad characters. There were characters in this I truly despised, extremely bad people. But the way he writes them makes you truly interested in reading more about them. He humanizes them without justifying the horrible things they’ve done or asking you to forgive them. Sometimes you even root for them, but not always.
Who is worse, Christian, the sadist who serves his true nature honestly or the ordinary man who does nothing to stop him?
The foreword is not something I’ve really seen before in a short story collection and was a bit meandering, but since I’m biased and adore Joe’s writing, I didn’t mind it at all. I think once you’ve become so loyal to an author, learning about their history and writing process becomes much more interesting than it may have been otherwise. The story notes following were also insightful, although much briefer.
The price of being alive is that someday you aren’t.
My ratings for each story are as follows:
- Throttle (with Stephen King) 4.5/5
- Dark Carousel 4.5/5
- Wolverton Station 4/5
- By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain 5/5
- Faun 4/5
- Late Returns 4/5
- All I Care About Is You 4/5
- Thumbprint 3/5
- The Devil on the Staircase 3/5
- Twittering from the Circus of the Dead 3.5/5
- Mums 4/5
- In The Tall Grass (with Stephen King) 3.5/5
- You Are Released 4/5
While that only comes to an average of 3.92, I was just so consistently impressed and haunted by this collection that I have to give it five stars. Even the stories that I didn’t feel rated highly stuck with me, which I think says a lot about Joe Hill’s writing and how he’s able to truly understand how good writing impacts the human psyche. This honestly may be my favorite book of the year — although we’ll see come December. I was constantly dropping this into my lap just to stare into the distance and contemplate how haunting some of the content was.
Her song — a low-pitched, unearthly dirge, like the forlorn cries of the whales that have long been extinct — has no words. Perhaps there never are for grief.
Overall, Joe Hill is incredibly talented. Please read this.