Thanks to Edelweiss and William Morrow for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
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 on Netflix.
A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders, becomes the blood-drenched stomping grounds 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 upon 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 outlaw 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Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche.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.
A book of stories isn’t a novel and can’t have the simple narrative drive of a novel. I think it still should have a feeling of progression, of connectedness. It’s like a road trip. You’re staying in a different inn every night: One night it’s a romantic Victorian B&B with a supposedly haunted gazebo out back, the next it’s a cruddy Motel 6 with what looks like old bloodstains on the ceiling. The places where you stop to rest and dream are unique—but the road is the same, always waiting to carry you on to whatever’s next. And when it’s over, you’ve arrived someplace new, someplace (you hope) with a good view. A place to breathe deep and take it all in.
~ Joe Hill, Full Throttle ~
You know it’s a good sign when an author’s Foward is as entertaining as the actual fictional content. In his introduction to his upcoming anthology, Full Throttle, Joe Hill gives readers a glimpse of his writing journey as the son of two bestselling authors, Tabitha and Stephen King. While I know it’s easy to skip these, in this case I recommend you read it because it’s as fascinating as what comes next. As far as the actual anthology goes, I’m not going to review all thirteen tales in this creepy collection, but I’ll let you know which ones were standouts for me, for one reason or another.
I have to begin with Throttle because it’s the first of two stories Hill has co-written with his dad. I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the right mood, but I didn’t care for it. Written in honor of horror writer Richard Matheson, I thought it was too derivative of Duel, only this time a murderous big rig is mowing down outlaw bikers. My biggest problem came with the characters though. I disliked the drug/biker gang so much that I vacillated between not caring what happened to them, to cheering for the anonymous truck driver. I had mostly guessed his motivation for the gory mayhem well before the ending so when the big reveal came, it sort of fizzled.
Dark Carousel is supernatural horror at its best and had me biting my nails from beginning to end. Here, Hill channels his father at his scariest. Despite it being a short story, I got a real sense of the characters and was terrified for them. It also gives a nod to Charlie Manx from Hill’s NOS4A2 which will delight fans. I do not recommend reading this right before bedtime!
Late Returns is another favorite of mind as it’s centered around a grief-stricken son who takes on a part-time job of driving an antique library bookmobile that, well let’s just say there are ghosts and time travel involved. It’s surprisingly sentimental and it had me tearing up a couple of times. It’s a perfect example of Hill’s versatility as a writer.
By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain is a beautiful tribute to Ray Bradbury and Hill takes that and channels his own memory of the disappointment of a failed childhood trip to Loch Ness, into pure literary gold. It’s a simply told, poignant story of two childhood friends who stumble across the corpse of a plesiosaur. As they debate over what to do, they’re unexpectedly forced to confront their own mortality. Hill does a masterful job capturing the voices of the children. The streaming horror network Shudder has picked this up as part of its upcoming Creepshow remake.
Faun which is Hill’s tribute to C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Ray Bradbury’s Sound of Thunder and Lawrence Block is hands down my favorite story in this collection. Have you ever wondered what would happen if adults stumbled across a magical doorway to an enchanted land like Narnia? Well, given the arrogance, selfishness and avarice of the human race, it goes pretty much as expected until the inhabitants decide to fight back. This story has me wanting to hunt Joe Hill down to plead with him to turn it into a full length novel. I guess I’ll have to be content though with the news that Netflix has won the bidding war to adapt this into a movie.
And speaking of Netflix, In the Tall Grass is the second story father and son write together, and the movie is due to drop on the streaming network in October. I loved this horror tale of a brother and sister who try to be good samaritans only to find themselves trapped in gruesomely horrific circumstances. After reading this you’ll forget about avoiding creepy cornfields when you’re going on your next road trip, and instead start growing anxious when spotting large fields of tall grass! This deeply disturbing, twisted tale really shows off both writers horror chops and I can’t wait for the movie!
While not every story was my cup of tea, overall I think Full Throttle is an enjoyable anthology that I will not only please longtime fans, but also attract new ones. All of the stories except for two, Mums and Late Returns, have appeared in previous anthologies so as you read this you get an intriguing look at how Joe Hill’s writing has developed through the years. Oh! And you know how I recommended you read the Forward? Likewise, I suggest the Storynotes are worth reading as well. And if you stick around for the acknowledgments, there’s a delectable little treat at the end called A Little Sorrow.