The secret’s been out for years now, but in case you didn’t know it—and in case you’ve never seen a photo of him—Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King. He came admirably to prominence outside the shadow of his father with the excellent collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, and followed that up with the intriguing novel Heart-Shaped Box, about a rock star who buys a man’s soul off the Internet. It was about that time in his career that Hill’s provenance was revealed to all, and since then, his book (and comic) sales have exploded—to the point at which he tops bestseller lists with every title.
Full Throttle is a new short story collection, and this one offers a wide variety of tales, including two that were cowritten by Stephen King. The first of those is “In the Tall Grass,” about siblings who hear the voice of a lost boy calling from an overgrown field—turns out, something evil lurks in that field. (This story was recently adapted into a Netflix movie.) The second King collaboration is “Throttle,” a tale that pays respects to Steven Spielberg’s “Duel.”
Other fun tales include the Bradbury-esque “Dark Carousel,” which follows some kids as they embark on some drunken misdeeds at a carnival, and “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead,” a scary story told through tweets, about a teen on a doomed family vacation. There’s also the cleverly structured “The Devil on the Staircase” folk tale, about a boy in Italy who pines for his cousin, and “Thumbprint,” a contemporary war story about PSD. Then there’s “Late Returns,” a ghost story about a bookmobile, and “Faun,” which feels like a Narnia tale. Possibly my favorite story is “You Are Released,” about passengers on a doomed flight coming to terms with one another while the world ends below them.
Hill is perhaps best known for his comics work (Locke & Key) and his novels, which also include The Fireman and NOS4A2. But I think his underrated talent is as a short-story writer, which allows him to really stretch and imagine and mature through a range of styles and genres. Personally, I believe Hill is still maturing as a writer (often, he goes for a cheap thrill instead of deeper resonance), but Full Throttle is fascinating stuff, all around!