TITLE: 20th Century Ghosts
AUTHOR: Joe Hill
Overall: ★★★ (3)
From the New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Horns comes this award-winning collection of short fiction.
Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . . .
Francis was human once, but now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . .
John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . . .
Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of ’77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . . .
The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. . . .
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THE CRITICAL POINTS
I’ll be honest, when I started reading this short story anthology, I had a hard time getting into it. Many of the stories were more science fiction or horror rather than what I typically consider a ghost story.
WRITING: Hill is a powerful writer, there is no denying it, with an active imagination. His visuals are often spot on in a very disturbing way.
STORY: This collection contained 15 short stories… I’m not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy them all. There was very little character development and the formatting from story to story was not consistent. So, I will take the time to focus on the few that I did enjoy.
20th Century Ghost
The Rosebud Theatre is an old-style movie palace, haunted by the semi-legendary spirit of a young woman. The girl died during a screening of The Wizard of Oz, appears infrequently throughout the Twentieth Century, and occasionally starts conversations with a select few moviegoers. The story is told by Alec Sheldon, the theatre owner, who worries about his approaching mortality and what will happen to the Rosebud after he retires.
- My Thoughts: The ending was way to abrupt, and not at all where I felt the story was going or should have gone. However, I enjoyed the journey. I wanted more of the young girl, but was given less of the “ghost” and more of the old man running the theatre.
The Black Phone
Thirteen-year-old John Finney is kidnapped by a man named Al. Trapped in a basement room, the boy’s only hope may lie in a mysterious disconnected black phone hanging on the basement wall. The phone rings at night with the whispers of the kidnapper’s previous (and now dead) victims.
- My Thoughts: As a mom, this story is my worst fear. The fear of one of my children being abducted is something I have had nightmares about since becoming pregnant with my first child. Hill captures the emotion of the experience perfectly, makes you feel, smell, even taste was is happening to the young boy. It killed me not to be able to reach into the book and protect him. I wont give away the ending, but it was one of the few stories where I felt somewhat satisfied as a reader… although, not completely.
The story concerns Dr. Allinger, an old man who runs a “Museum of Silence” which contains the last breaths of various people, some being famous figures such as Edgar Allan Poe.
- My Thoughts: This is a simple story with a hint of a creepiness factor, but nothing solid to point to. The characters are simple, and relatable. It is one of the shorter stories in the collection, but it makes you wonder about life and death in a way that none of the other stories do.
CHARACTERS: Again, not a lot of character development. Although there were characters throughout the collection that I enjoyed and rooted for, there wasn’t one in every story. Hill’s writing didn’t make me love the characters. In fact, more often than not, I despised the characters or feared the fact that somewhere out in the world there were people really like them. With that said, I think Hill accomplished exactly what he was setting out to do.
APPEARANCE: The cover portrays bugs, which won’t make sense until you read You Will Hear the Locust Sing. I have to say; this story was one of my least favorites. Probably because it was, in a word, gross.
MY FAVORITE QUOTES:
“You get an astronaut’s life whether you want it or not. Leave it all behind for a world you know nothing about. That’s just the deal.” ~ Art in POP ART
“Wait. There are all different kinds of silence. The silence in a seashell. The silence after a gunshot. His last breath is still in there. Your ears need time to acclimate. In a while you’ll be able to make it out. His own particular final silence.” ~ Alinger in LAST BREATH