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Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche.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.
At one point in my life, while I was reading Joe Hill’s first book, Heart Shaped Box, I considered the idea of getting Joe Hill inspired tattooed, making my leg into a collage of all of his works. This idea fell to the wayside at some point, and for some reason I stopped reading so much Joe Hill, even though I kept buying all of his books. I got through Horns and just stopped. So when the opportunity to read Full Throttle came up, I was interested and then I put it off. I don’t know why I procrastinate, and sometimes I get punished for it. This is one of those times. Full Throttle deserved my attention as soon as I was given an ARC of the novel through NetGalley, but for some reason, i did what I have been doing to all of Joe Hill’s work, put it off for as long as possible. For lack of better words, this makes me stupid.
Joe Hill is incredible, and this collection is really him not only flexing his writing muscles but also showing his creativity. His writing flows through all thirteen of these stories, sometimes wearing the influence of his heroes on his sleeve. Once I thought I was going to read the best story in the collection, the next story is even better. Usually with a collection like this there are stories that are hits and misses. Quite honestly there is only one story I didn’t really care for, one story that I would not shove under a friends nose and say, “Read this!” The collection deserves me to go through each story individually, something I normally do not do.
“Throttle” A story co-written with his father, Stephen King, whom I’ve heard is a pretty decent writer in his own right, Hill admits that it is a close reflection of a story by Richard Matheson, and honestly remember the story I said I didn’t care for? This is the one. I didn’t like it very much at all, and if I were to read this collection again, I would skip this story all together.
“Dark Carousel” A story of some teenagers drinking on the boardwalk of a seaside town, they ride a carousel called the Wild Wheel, which is filled with creepy animals. I was kind of cruising along reading this, and halfway through is when the story really started to sink it’s teeth into me. It made me think about the carousel in Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and I loved the creepy vibe and ending.
“Wolverton Station” A story about riding the train across England, stopping in Wolverhampton (home of the EPL team Wolverhampton Wolves), and everyone getting onto the train being wolves dressed in clothes. Hill says he wrote the first draft of this story in five days, and it makes me wonder how fast and powerful creative juices can be.
“By The Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” This is the point where I became fully committed to this collection, like I was going to read the whole thing quicker than I expected. Based on Bradbury’s story “The Foghorn” (which I’ve never read), this is about a dead lake monster washed up on shore. This has been made into an episode of the new Creepshow series on Shudder, and I now need to search it out. I loved the premise and the execution.
“Faun” People who pay to hunt exotic animals are people who leave sour thoughts in my brain, so I did not really like the characters in this story, but as the story unfolded, I became more and more involved in the plot. This one is pretty good as a stand alone story, but kind of gets overshadowed by some of the just awe-inspiring stories around it.
“Late Return” This story is one of my favorites, about a guy who drives a Bookmobile around town. He has dead people show up to return books and get recommendations for books that will give them some last joy. I love this one.
“All I Care About is You” Set in steampunk/Metropolis type society, a bratty teenager is having a birthday and decides to ditch her friends at the last minute and spend an hour with an automaton/android who will be her friend. I really like this story as well, even though it is such a departure from the stories before this one.
“The Thumbprint” Mel was a prison guard/interrogator at Abu Ghraib, but now she is home and trying to adjust to life with images of torture and death in her head. She starts getting cards with thumbprints on them, and she feels like she is being stalked. This is very dark, very disturbing, and there is a great deal of sadness in the PTSD and just paranoia that is involved in these characters’ lives. It is heartbreaking.
“The Devil on the Staircase” This story is written in a way that is meant to look like a staircase, and as a stand alone piece it is kind of more style over content. However after the heaviness of “Thumbprint” I needed this story to help pull me back out the darkness.
“Twittering From the Circus of the Dead.” This was a kindle single I bought a long time ago, and so this is the only story I have read previously. A family is traveling across the country and stops at a circus. Things go sideways from there. Written as tweets by the bratty teenage girl, this another like “The Devil on the Staircase” where style beats substance.
“Mums” This is one of the more realistic stories in the collection. A separatist keeps his family in a compound, stockpiles guns, and waits for the government to attack. His son Jack is seeing visions, just like his mom did before his dad let his mom die. The dread in this story is real, I know people like this, so the climax and the ending gave me the anxiety it was hoping to convey.
“In the Tall Grass” Before this collection even came out, it was announced that this was going to be a Netflix movie. I watched the movie, and I fell asleep halfway through. The story seems to be more compact and make more sense. I do want to watch the movie again however, just to see how much they changed. I know they changed a few things.
“You Are Released” This is honestly the most frightening of all of the stories to me. A nuclear way breaks out while a commercial airline is flying across America. The passengers do not know what is happening. The pilots do not know what is happening. All they know is they cannot land and when they do land, everything will be drastically different. I loved all of the different perspectives going through this story, and it is really an incredible piece of writing. The scariest story of them all.
Full Throttle is a very strong story collection, and even though they have made “In the Tall Grass” and “By The Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” into a film and tv episode, respectively, I would be completely excited about the news of every single one of these stories being adapted. Overall this is an amazing collection, and even though there are some dips and I didn’t like everything equality, I would recommend this to everyone.
I received this as an ARC through NetGally in exchange for an honest review.