Reviewed by Jed R. Cruz
By Joe Hill
448 pp. William Morrow.
It’s a rare pleasure to sit down with a novel that can be finished in a single sitting. It’s the best of both worlds in many ways: the depth and characterization of a story long enough to allow its characters and situations to breathe and grow, and also the singular experience of falling into another world and not coming back up for air until a complete story has been told from beginning to end.
Perhaps the entirety of Joe Hill’s latest can’t be finished in a single sitting, but the four short novels that the book contains can very well be finished in four.
Strange Weather is a collection of four novels, each unrelated and self-contained, but also tied to each other through the titular theme. In each tale, something is happening with the weather, whether it’s a storm or a forest fire. The stories are very much of the weird variety, confidently straddling the line between horror and science fiction, but also of the human variety. Relationships of different sorts are explored in surprising depth in each one, adding a layer of relatability and believability, and in some cases, increasing the stakes.
It’s difficult to write about many of the plot points that happen in each short novel, because each one is so lean and focused, and discovering what the story is actually about is part of the joy of reading through each one. A simple, brief glimpse into each would be best to avoid any spoiled revelations:
In Snapshot, the narrator recounts his childhood as an overweight, friendless adolescent with a knack for engineering and a former nanny who has just started to exhibit signs of age-related memory loss. She offers a cryptic warning that no one could possibly believe, and storm clouds have begun to roll in over the horizon.
It takes a bit of time for Loaded to fully come together, as it begins with different snapshots of scenes and characters separated by place and time. The gaps between each will get smaller, with black, single-mom journalist Aisha Lanternglass as the central character, a fire in the distance as the central disaster, and the central theme being — what else? — guns. Loaded is almost a procedural, combining patient investigation with sudden bursts of extreme violence.
Aubrey is a musician. Aubrey is hopelessly in love with Harriet. Aubrey is also currently inside an airplane, minutes from jumping out with a parachute. Aubrey is afraid of heights. Aubrey is also afraid to tell Harriet what he really wants. Aubrey does not want to jump.
Aubrey does jump, but he lands much, much sooner than anyone might have expected.
The protagonist of Rain is the incredibly-named Honeysuckle Speck, and her world is literally ending around her. Rain tells a familiar story in many ways: Honeysuckle’s brief journey in search of family through a society in the process of falling apart, where rain can tear a person apart and a doomsday cult is giddily awaiting the day of reckoning (after getting it wrong several times in the past).
Strange Weather is a mystery. It’s a sealed box that is an absolute delight to unfold. The characters are well-sketched out, the events are terrifying and memorable, and one particular ending is a gut-punch out of nowhere.
It remains to be seen whether there are parallels and symbols hidden within the multiple layers of each story, because it seems like they are there and they’re not easy to spot.
Each story, however, is a fantastic read. Highly recommended.
Strange Weather by Joe Hill will be available soon at Fully Booked. To reserve a copy in advance, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jed is one of the co-founders of Popsicle Games, a game development studio based in the Philippines. He has worked as an animator, web designer, and college instructor, but he continues to dream of writing for a living. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @jrevita.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]