If you ever wondered where Stephen King would be after having the road of horror paved for him by, well, himself, Joe Hill is your answer. He’s also the answer to whether or not the “apple falls far from the tree”: it doesn’t. Hill is King’s son, and his writing is an homage to his father unlike any other. I’m sure he hates being compared to his dad, but come on, that’s what he gets for mentioning Carrie in the first ten pages of his story.
And his story. “Best New Horror” is the first story in his collection 20th Century Ghosts, and it’s so unassuming and welcoming that the reader doesn’t realize she’s rattled out of her skin until it’s too late. Hill breaks rules here: not only is the story primarily about writing, horror no less, but the narrator is a publisher of a collection of horror journals. And the story is one we’ve seen in countless movies and read in countless tales of terror since, um, his dad. And yet… Hill uses everything that we know about spooky people, spooky farmhouses, single men with homes smelling of “manly pancake batter”, not to condescend to us, but to trick us into thinking that we’ve read his story before. We haven’t. We haven’t read his story, or the story within his story, ever before, and it’s a hell of a way to open a collection.
I’m not sure why I thought I could read a scary story at night, this close to bedtime, but now I’ve gone and done it to myself. This book is going into the freezer before bed.