Can talent be inherited?
I ask because, for those that don’t know, Joe Hill is the son of one of my all time favourite authors. And reading this book, there does feel like there are elements of his father’s work seeping through. Not a lot, but in some of the way the characters are written and the themes explored, there is a touch of Stephen King to it.
Despite that, based on this collection of short stories, Hill has his own voice to carry him through. Before I get onto the stories themselves, I’d like to point out how Hill actually used the pseudonym when he was first trying to be published so that no one would put his work out there based on his father’s name. And it meant, like every other writer, he struggled. Yet he still uses Joe Hill. For that, I can only admire the guy. He chose the harder route, rather than just going “I’m King’s son. Publish me, bitch.”
So, 20th Century Ghosts, like I said above, is a collection of short stories. Each one stands out brilliantly on their own, and Hill has the ability to really draw you into the world in very few words, setting the scene and introducing the characters quickly so we can get moving into the plot.
I’m not going to go into the individual stories. Mainly because it would be hard to pick which ones to focus on, and also because I really think this is a book worth picking up, whatever you’re a fan of, and I don’t want to spoil anything. Hill’s stories are fresh and interesting. I half expected this to be a collection of horror stories, and although there are a few horror tales in there, most of them are simply about people. Hill writes about relationships, between friends and parents and ghost-lovers. There are moments in 20th Century Ghosts which will make you cringe, shudder and, yes, almost cry in some points. Each story feels like it could be from a different author, but his voice – that thing all authors strive to make unique – carries throughout this collection.
Each tale manages to weave its way into your mind, and at some points it really feels like they just cut off too early. There are a number of different characters I wanted to read more about, wanted to stick with, but before I could really question what happened to them, I was delving into a new set of characters and new places.
Whether a fan of King or not, Hill’s work is worth checking out. And no matter what sort of books you enjoy, there will be something you love in 20th Century Ghosts.