The idea behind this month's BAM Challenge theme is that we must all be sick of the heat and want summer to be over. I happen to like summer and the heat, though this August has been unusually cold and rainy and distinctly unsummerlike. Not in the mood to read about cold weather, I went with the bone-chilling meaning of "cold" and read a horror book, 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill.
This collection of short stories range from creepy to vaguely unsettling to merely odd. None of them, however, were the sort of story I wanted to read late at night in bed. The scariest story was the first one, "Best New Horror" in which an editor of an annual horror anthology tracks down the author of an outstanding submission (a terrifying story within a story) and his visit to the author's house was weird and scary and has stuck with me like the final scene from Blair Witch Project.
In "Pop Art," a great example of a surreal (but not scary) story, we meet Arthur, an inflatable boy who must be constantly vigilant as he is vulnerable to an array of dangers that could cost him his life.
The collection ends with the 50-page novella "Voluntary Committal" in which an autistic boy builds elaborate structures out of cardboard boxes in his basement, structures which are very different on the inside than the outside. Though I'm not usually a fan of longer short stories, this one was worth every word and I did stay up late reading in bed to finish it. It was a bit creepy, and it was late, but despite myself I couldn't put it down.
There was a hopeful aspect to many of these stories, as some ended on a more positive note than horror stories typically do. Joe Hill is not only creative and original, but his writing is solid and effective, not relying on gore or sheer terror for momentum. He far surpasses most of the horror I grew up on (with the exception of his father, Stephen King, whose style is so different I won't bother to compare them.) This isn't genre reading really, it is just great storytelling. Hill has also written a novel Heart-Shaped Box which I'm putting on my list to read.