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 from Netflix.
A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground 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 on 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 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Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche.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.
**** Huge thank you to William Morrow for providing me with a copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****
Trigger Warnings: (There are a lot of triggers in these stories as it deals with a lot of heavy and dark material, it’s likely that I may have missed a few please keep that in mind) Murder, Gore, Violence, Drug Abuse, Mention of Abortion, Cannibalism, Mention of Sexual Assault and Attempted Sexual Assault, & Physical Abuse
I almost hate to say it but this was my first book by Joe Hill. I know! I own four of his other books and this is the first one I read! I just know when I’m going to enjoy an author’s work though and I was not disappointed with “Full Throttle”. I have to say his writing is phenomenal and very reminiscent of his father’s, Stephen King. There were a few stories that didn’t quite work for me but they were not bad and actually very well written, I’m sure they’ll find the right readers. Overall thoughts? Very impressed. Can’t wait to dive into Hill’s other stories!
I will be reviewing each individual story in the anthology but for those of you just looking for a quick “favorites” I’ll leave them here! (*whispers* it was basically half of them though and I had to only put the 5 star reads here….)
- Late Returns
- All I Care About Is You
- In The Tall Grass
- You Are Released
Full Throttle (with Stephen King) – ★★★★
This story is about a Motorcycle club (let’s be real though it’s a gang) out on the road trying to make things right after a deal went very south, things get even worse for them as a mad trucker starts trying to run them down.
What a wild ride this was! Full of action and it definitely gets your adrenaline running too. I loved how well developed the characters were considering what a short story it was and the ending was fantastic. I did guess part of the “twist” earlier but I didn’t really mind and I felt that one of the character’s got off too easy…. Overall this was a great story to start the collection off with.
Dark Carousel – ★★★★
This one is about a group of young people on an old seaside resort/amusement park who come upon a pretty run down (and creepy looking) carousel. They’re drunk and make a poor decision that results in unknown forces seeking revenge….
I really enjoyed this one, it was the right amount of creepy and I loved the overall revenge theme. It’s always fun when you don’t know who you should be rooting for too. I really want to say what I enjoyed most about this little story but I can’t without spoiling it! Ack! I didn’t give it a full five stars because the end got a bit slow but this is definitely still one of my favorite reads in the collection.
Wolverton Station – ★★
This one is about a greedy businessman riding on a train in England when something strange decides to get aboard as well. I really liked the themes being alluded to in this story, with “Wall Street Wolf” types and….well, actual wolves. I thought it was clever and the story of course is written well too. However, it just wasn’t really my cup of tea. I’m sure other readers will have a better time with it than me. Also I had “Werewolves of London” stuck in my head the entire time I read this and I think that sums up the story pretty nicely as well.
By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain – ★★
Another story that just wasn’t for me, as I said I’m sure there are the right readers for it out there because Joe Hill is a great writer but I’m not one of them. This story is about a group of young children discovering something strange washed up on the shores of the lake one morning. I really enjoyed how the perspective and the children were written but this was just a little to “open-ended” for me, I like to know what’s going on and this story keeps it just barely out of reach the entire time. Sure, I can draw my own conclusions and it’s easy enough to guess but it’s not explained and that just bothered me with this one.
Faun – ★★★★★
I feel like this was a story I wasn’t supposed to enjoy and then it became one of my favorite reads in the whole collection. I can’t stop thinking about it, it’s just so clever and I had a blast reading it. This story is so very comparable to “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, in fact it’s much the same. However, the twist is that instead of hunting dinosaurs via time travel you’re hunting fantastical/mythological creatures via portal. So it feels like “A Sound of Thunder” meets “The Chronicles of Narnia” to me essentially.
This was just so creative and fun to read, yes there’s some pretty dark stuff happening and I realize saying it’s “fun” sounds bad but that’s just the only way I can describe my reading of it.
Plus that twist ending? Perfection.
Late Returns – ★★★★★
This story is a bit slow to build but overall I loved it, it’s a very unique idea. It tells the story of a man, a former trucker, returning to his hometown after his parents die in order to take care of their belongings. He ends up returning a very overdue book his mother had left to the library and gets a job running the “Bookmobile”. However, he soon discovers that not all is as it seems with the Bookmobile and some of the people that come browsing its shelves.
If I were to pick one word to describe this particular story it would be: heartwarming. It’s got a bit of the supernatural going for it as well and that “lore” was so interesting, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going on. But overall the message behind the story and the ending of the story itself is very touching. I teared up while reading it, it’s just a beautiful story and one that, as a reader and lover of books, is very endearing.
All I Care About Is You – ★★★★★
Is it possible to love a story so much and subsequently hate it? I have so many emotions about this story! I loved it! I thought it was such a nice, touching story! And then I hated it! That’s enough ranting though. This is a sci-fi story about a young girl who is disappointed with her birthday this year as a result of her family’s decline in wealth. She ends up needing some help with her bike and acquires the help of a “pay as you go” robot named Chip. What follows is a very endearing tale of a robot helping a young girl have a wonderful birthday celebration.
But that ending! I feel so attacked but honestly it was so good because of how shocking it was! I’m still taking it personally though.
Thumbprint – ★★
I feel like if this one went a very different way at the end I would have enjoyed it. This is about a woman named Mal who has recently come back after a tour of duty in Iraq and is being terrorized by photos of thumbprints appearing in her home, car, etc. Mal is haunted by her time in Iraq and the various crimes she’s committed. I felt like Mal was never sorry for the things she did and honestly she wasn’t a good person. Which is why a bunch of creepy pictures turning up had such potential! However, the ending just felt like a let down. “Oh? That’s It?”, that sort of let down. I felt there was a bigger picture the entire time only to be told at the end of the story the picture was much smaller. Oh well.
The Devil on the Staircase – ★★★
I still don’t really know how I feel about this story, very mixed feelings so I think a 3 star rating is in the middle just like my thoughts. This story is about a man who is in love with a girl and ends up committing a terrible crime in order to have her, he then escapes down the “devil’s staircase” a stone stairway the locals say goes down to hell.
I really liked the formatting for this story, each paragraph is shaped like a staircase. It’s fun. I also liked the general plot more towards the end of the story I thought it was interesting and I always like when there’s a bit of magic even if it is dark. But overall it was sort of slow and nothing all that interesting happened.
Twittering from the Circus of the Dead – ★★★
Another story that I’m not sure how I feel about, thoughts divided right down the middle. This is told through tweets by a young girl on a vacation with her family, they don’t quite get along all the time and need a break. They pull off into a roadside circus called “The Circus of the Dead”, I think you can imagine how the rest of the story goes.
I thought it was pretty hilarious and got to be quite nerve-wracking at the end too. Overall I enjoyed it but there just wasn’t quite enough there to bump the rating up for me.
Mums – ★
Okay, but what the actual hell was this story? From what I could tell it’s about a boy named Jack living with some anti-government “family” who claim his mother was “crazy” and that he wouldn’t be allowed to see her anymore. His mother then passes away and he obtains some mum seeds at a roadside cart from a very peculiar woman and the mums that grow aren’t quite normal.
There’s a lot going on in this story and that’s probably why I didn’t enjoy it, also I just thought it was really boring. This young boy has been brainwashed to believe a lot of things that just aren’t true and we, as the readers, are supposed to determine if what Jack is seeing is actually real or not. There are some creepy bits with the mums that I liked but that’s about it. Overall I was just very confused with this story and didn’t enjoy it.
In The Tall Grass (with Stephen King) – ★★★★★
I have to say I think I may have actually enjoyed the movie more than the story. I know it’s blasphemy! However, things in the movie are way more fleshed out and because this is a short story we don’t see quite that much development.
For those of you who haven’t heard of this one yet, it’s about a pair of siblings traveling across the country who stop on the side of the road to help someone calling from a field of tall grass. You can probably imagine how that’s going to go.
I loved how creepy this one was, it was terrifying. I do wish I could have some things explained to me because both the film and the story are pretty vague and confusing. However, I feel this is just one of those times where you’re better off not knowing. The film is quite different than the story in a few ways but overall I really recommend both watching the film and reading this story!
You Are Released – ★★★★★
This story is told from multiple POVs on a passenger plane as some pretty terrifying things begin to occur while they’re up in the air. I hate to be so vague but honestly if I said anymore it would spoil the story.
This is honestly probably the scariest story in the entire collection because it’s so realistic. It involves the current political state of our world and I’ll leave it at that because I really don’t want to spoil it. However, because of this I got a bit too worked up while reading but that isn’t the story’s fault. I just thought it was really interesting and I enjoyed the muliple POVs.
There is another reason I found this story to be so fascinating and that involves a quick story time! This is 100% personal and doesn’t actually reflect on the story but I think it’s cool enough to mention to you guys.
So this last July I went on a trip with my cousin to Boston, MA and we flew out of Hector International Airport in Fargo, ND while also making a pit stop in Minneapolis, MN. Why is this interesting or relevant, you may ask? Well in the story this particular plane is supposed to land in Minneapolis but for reasons yet unknown they are told to standby and wait to be told where they can land. At this point in the story it’s stated that they were flying over North Dakota, which is awesome because my home state is literally never mentioned in anything. I figured “Wow, how cool would it be if they landed in the airport I flew out of?”, and that’s exactly what they were told to do. Cool, right?
But wait! It gets WEIRDER you guys! Guess where this plane/group of passengers was supposed to be going? Boston. Pretty crazy, right? I think so! Lots of bizarre coincidences that’s for sure but I thought it made the story even cooler! End, story time!
Overall I was pretty impressed with this collection of stories, like all anthologies/collections there were a few I didn’t quite enjoy but there were actually a lot of winners here. I definitely recommend this one for Joe Hill fans or anyone looking for a collection of short stories that range from horror to sci-fi and fantasy!