Tuesday 24 October 2017

Release Day Review!!! - Strange Weather by Joe Hill

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Title: Strange Weather

Author: Joe Hill

Genre: Novellas, Anthology, Horror

Release Date: 24th October 2017

Amazon: UK - USA


Strange Weather is a collection of four novellas or short novels by writer Joe Hill.

Snapshot, Loaded, Aloft, and Rain are connected by bizarre weather events, providing a backdrop - or a catalyst - to the events which unfold.

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via Edelweiss. Edelweiss provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

Apparently the finished edition of this includes some illustrations - but my review copy didn't include these, so I can't really review those!

I'm a fan of Joe Hill - should just put that out there now! I think he rocks. But regular readers of this blog will know that I can fangirl and be critical at the same time!

Those same regular readers may notice that I've changed my usual format a bit for this review - I felt like talking about each of the novels included in this book separately would be the best way to go!

It all comes together at the end for the content warnings and overall verdict! :)

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Additional genres: sci-fi, fantasy

Snapshot is a tale of polaroids and memories.

The Polaroid Man/The Phoenician is an exceptionally creepy villain - possibly because he's so sparingly described; no-one can accuse Joe Hill of overdoing it.

I would've liked just a touch more explanation of the whole Phoenician aspect, but that's a personal thing - I'm curious dammit! ;)

I appreciate the explanation of the 80s slang (our protagonist is given the nickname 'f*gs' or 'f**g*t' by bullies) as being completely unacceptable from a modern standpoint, but I think it'll still bother some readers.

(This Queer girl's view: that word is like a slap to the face to me. I really hate it, but I was able to move past it, and enjoy the novella.)

Sometimes Mrs Beukes, who has dementia, is talked about a little too disparagingly for my tastes; but I also recognise what's said as the venting of an exhausted and frustrated carer/husband, who clearly loves her.
This novella also tackles tough subject matters like euthanasia. (Albeit with something of a twist.)

I personally think the subject of dementia and end of life care was handled quite well, but if you have a different view, please let me know!

This is definitely uber-uber-readable and the storm which serves as this novella's contribution to the weather theme is pretty much played to perfection.

I should mention though, that an action is described as 'sp**t*c' in this novella. Which is NOT OK.

Apparently it's not considered to be so bad in the US, but here in the UK, that word is about as offensive as you can get, so this is a heads-up for UK readers in particular.

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Additional Genres: contemporary, crime

This is easily the most unnerving novella in the bunch. Because it's all too plausible. And things like this can and do happen in the US on a regular basis.

Americans - and many other people - will find this an uncomfortable read, looking at America's dangerous fascination and love-affair with guns, and its equally dangerous inherent racism.

We open with the shooting of an unarmed black boy by police officers. It doesn't really let up from there.

Aisha Lanternglass - our sort-of protagonist in this meandering web of violence and lies - is a fantastic character. (I also love her name!)

I think that she's written very well - and that the black representation in this novella is fairly good - but then, I'm not black.

If any black reviewers have written about this book, please let me know! I'd love to link to you.

I'm not gonna spoiler you all, but the ending is... it can be taken in several ways. Not all of them good. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about it.

One of the main issues I can see people having with this novella are the parts written from the bigoted a**hole's point of view (PoV) - albeit in the third person.

This doesn't really make you feel sympathy for him - if anything you'll hate him more - but I know there's a valid argument that we don't need this kind of PoV in fiction, so a lot of people won't like this aspect.

The weather theme here is a raging wildfire - make of that metaphor what you will.

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Additional genres: contemporary, sci-fi

This novella is my favourite of the four, a slightly twisted fairy-tale in the sky which incorporates loneliness and obsession with a fair touch of Gothicism.

Argh, that probably makes it sound far more whimsical than it is! I really can't explain this one - but it's beautiful.

This is Joe Hill doing what Joe Hill does best - sparse, lyrical, prose, and writing not only with the words but with the spaces between them.

I know, that makes me sound either a) pretentious or b) New-Age-y. But that's the only way I can think to explain it *shrugs* I'll blame my hippie upbringing... again.

I could've done without the character with anxiety problems related to fear of heights being called a coward though *mutters angrily* - some of us know what anxiety feels like, and it's not easy.

I think Aloft might be too bizarre for some people... but wow, the imagery guys! I loved it.

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Additional genres: contemporary, dystopia, sci-fi, LGBTQ+ (F/F)

I have no idea. Really, I don't.

I mean, I love Honeysuckle Speck (and dude, you have totally been taking naming tips from J K Rowling,) but... well, if you find Aloft too bizarre, you won't like Rain.

I don't even know if I like it. I think I do...? Honestly, I have no idea what I just read.

Luckily, this is also the shortest story in the collection, so... I guess there's that...

If you do give it a try though, you'll find your new bad-a** butch lesbian heroine in Honeysuckle - who deals quite well in a situation which is best described as 'WTF?'

Not all good on the diversity front though - we are suffering from a case of Bury Your Gays, and also The Black Dude Dies First.

(Although, technically, the Jewish guy dies first, but you get my meaning.)

Not good tropes man, not good tropes.

Also I should mention that someone is described as falling 'in a palsy,' when actually, they just fell, and someone else is 'bulimia thin,' both of which are highly ableist.

But, y'know what? The Queen of the Apocalypse on her own made this one worth the read for me! (I can't explain it to you; I really don't think anyone can. But I love her.)

Content Warnings:

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Hold on, we've got some ground to cover:

- violence (BIG warning)

- gore (BIG warning)

- gun violence (BIG warning)

- suicide/aftermath of suicide (one particularly graphic scene)

- euthanasia

- dementia

- child death/child murder

- cancer

- racism (BIG warning)

- Islamophobia (BIG warning)

- homophobia (BIG warning)

- racist slurs

- homophobic slurs

- body-shaming

- anxiety/fear of heights

- anxiety-shaming

- cults

- domestic abuse/violence (BIG warning)

- child abuse (physical, emotional)

- being kept captive

- graphic accidents (BIG warning)

- murder (BIG warning)

- police brutality

- intimate pictures shared without consent

- crystal meth
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- military-related injuries

- corpses (fairly graphic in places)

- grief

- animal deaths/dead animals


Given that anthologies tend to be half-hit and half-miss, this hits more often than it misses.

I still don't know how I feel about Rain, but as a whole the anthology is readable and... well... just awesome.

Aloft in particular is well worth it - so give it a try! :)

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  1. This looks like a really interesting anthology! I’m sorry you didn’t like Rain, but hey, with four novellas, one has to be better than the other.

    1. I'm not even sure that I *don't* like it - it's a weird one! XD

  2. Aside from the last story thoroughly confusing you, for the most part it sounds like Joe Hill is someone who writes rather poetically, and really writes about controversial themes that require a lot of thought and might even make the reader uncomfortable. I think that's good because it really makes us THINK about certain matters and our opinions on them.

    1. I'm a HUGE fan of Joe Hill - his writing is amazing!!! XD

      And yes, I suppose he does make you think (in a way that you don't actually notice while you're reading!)


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