Mixing it up this time with a short story collection. I stumbled across a list of best horror while procrastinating on FB (surprise) and 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill was on it. My library had a copy, so I dove right in. I’m a slow reader, so I always start off collections with the shortest stories to get a feel for the author if I haven’t read anything else by them before.
The one page flash Dead-wood was an obvious choice—but it wasn’t a good opener. It was more style than substance, which is fine if it’s not all there is, so I ignored that venture and moved on. Last Breath, the next shortest, was right up my alley. A quick dive into a creepy setting with a ‘scientific’ bend and I knew this would be my thing. I can’t say much without giving it away, but the museum features a collection of ‘last breaths’ from people famous and not, and the doctor is always ready to show you around, or to keep collecting. Even so short there were a few different places I could have seen the story go and it did not disappoint. It was plenty to get me ready to pick my next victim.
Another of my favorites was Pop Art; it wasn’t horror by any means or even a thriller, but a strange alternate universe tale. In this world, some people are born inflatable. At first I tried to understand it in an earthly way; is this a ‘Bubble Boy’ type situation? But no, he is literally a plastic blow up person, filled with air instead of blood. Art can’t talk or make much for expressions, but he makes a best friend and they bond closely. Art often thinks about death and loves outer space. He’s eccentric beyond his plastic skin. It was a strange story, but one I couldn’t put down even once I realized it was not the genre I expected.
I finished, but probably didn’t need to, The Widows Breakfast. Another story that wasn’t particularity horror; maybe aside from the creepy last line. A homeless person is riding the rails after the death of his lover and stumbles upon a cabin in the woods with a widow and her children. She feeds him, gives him her husband’s old clothes and her kids play a creepy game.
The more of the book I read, the more I see Ray Bradbury influences and realizing that made me like the stories more. They are simply supposed to be odd; not necessarily all horror. I think having found it on a horror list set me up to dislike it, and it took quite a few stories to realize the better categorization.
Overall, it was a worth-reading collection, and I give it 4 stars. As always, some were stronger than others, but the range makes it so there is something for everyone who likes to venture outside the norm. Your faves might be some I skimmed, that’s what I love about shorts; they are an easy way to dig into lots of different styles and tropes.