Strange Weather by Joe Hill

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Strange Weather by Joe Hill

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Category: Horror
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: Strange Weather is an electrifying tour de force from the ever-exciting Joe Hill. Four short novels, linked by inextricable weather. By turns touching, frightening and intriguing, Strange Weather is a delightfully disturbing commentary on love, loss and society.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: November 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473221178

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Strange Weather is a collection of four short novels all linked by, unsurprisingly, strange and cataclysmic weather. Each novel is distinct and showcases Hill's restrained yet vivid style which takes everyday events and makes them bitingly, acerbically macabre or blindingly beautiful, often switching from one sentence to the next. As Hill himself says the beauty of the world and the horror of the world were twined together, never is this truer than in Strange Weather where moments of abject horror are coupled with raw beauty.

In Snapshot, rain and thunder echo the dark intentions of a man who wants to erase the past, one image at a time. In turns frightening, unsettling and haunting, Snapshot illuminates the dark chambers of the human heart with all its sticky resentments and aching memories of the past. Michael is haunted by the fiendishly hideous Phoenician, a man hell bent on stealing snapshots with his mysterious polaroid and finds himself in a cat and mouse game to save those he loves from a fate he can't understand. Snapshot highlights all of Hill's gothic powers, which leave you by turns chilled to the bone with dread or left bereft and bruised of heart by his aching tenderness.

Loaded contrasts the incendiary destruction of a forest fire with the violence of a man determined to watch the world burn. Following a violent, abusive mall cop in denial about his barely restrained rage, this is a steely, whetted indictment against American gun culture. Lives are irreparably damaged, and communities destroyed all in protection of the second amendment. In today's concerning times, where mass shootings are becoming frighteningly commonplace, Loaded feels pertinent, it's true horror belied by its startling realism.

In Aloft, a mysterious cumulous cloud terrorises a sky diving acrophobic musician. By turns fantastical and emotive, Aloft is a thought provoking meditation on loneliness and the sickly thump of unrequited love. The mysterious cloud which captures Aubrey is at once intangible and corporeal, both real and unimaginable and able to offer him his every desire apart from freedom. When faced with a fate worse than death, Aubrey must dig deep to find the courage to unmask the mystery at the centre of his ethereal prison.

Finally, Rain follows Honeysuckle, a girl in love faced with certain annihilation in the face of storm clouds filled with needles. Raining down death and mayhem in an apocalyptic downpour, Hill expertly shapes a narrative of chaos and destruction. The reader follows Honeysuckle on her quest to understand the significance of apparently trivial events which accumulate, much like the deadly rain clouds, to bring forth a reckoning. Rain is a claustrophobic study of love and revenge, in which Hill highlights the barely restrained desire for global outrage and plays on the well worn riff of foreign born terror to underscore the true banality of evil.

In each of these tales, particularly Loaded and Rain, Hill has turned a bright, unforgiving spotlight on the intolerable state of America today, from the rabid protests against gun control to a president with his stubby fingers on the pulse, determined to use Twitter as a personal megaphone regardless of consequence. In this way Hill showcases not only his talent as a frolicking wordsmith but also his ability to hone in on current affairs with a wry, sardonic glare.

Strange Weather is first and foremost an easy entertaining read, the length of the novels allows the reader to race along at breakneck speed before moving onto another thrilling yarn. This frenetic pace never sacrifices style or substance, the characters are living, breathing embodiments of evil and grace, fully realised by Hill in stories which burn brightly and vanish, giving credence to the notion that it's better to burn out than to fade away. Hill's writing is electrifyingly vivid and voluptuous; he weaves a fever dream around the reader, cradled helplessly in his macabre embrace, and whispers promises of terror and delight.

For those of you interested in reading more by Joe Hill (and I would highly recommend it), you could try The Fireman or NOS-4R2. We can also recommend Snowblind by Christopher Golden.

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