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20th Century Ghosts (Export) [Paperback]

Joe Hill
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 18 2007

Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . . .

Francis was human once, but now he's an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . .

John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . . .

Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of '77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . . .

The past isn't dead. It isn't even past. . . .

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

After the release of Hill's acclaimed novel Heart-Shaped Box, this collection of his short fiction, originally published in Britain two years ago made its way to the United States. Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, runs a diverse gamut that includes some unapologetic chillers along the lines of the book's title story. Yet the essence of his material could best be described as a hybrid that connects the ironic twists from episodes of The Twilight Zone with the angst and vulnerability of childhood and adolescence. David LeDoux, whose previous audiobook credits include Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus! and Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, demonstrates an especially keen knack for capturing the cadence of teen and young adult male speech patterns, with equal parts deadpan cool and quivering tension. Hill's novella Voluntary Committal provides a sublime experience of jarring suspense and compelling family drama. Admittedly, a few of the briefer works may leave listeners longing for more fully developed story lines, but Hill consistently manages to evoke emotional responses and provoke unsettling questions, which makes for a worthwhile experience.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Alternately sad, scary, strange and at times even sweet, these tales will haunt you long after you’ve read them.” (Parade (a "Parade Pick"))

“[A] lovely, earnest collection of short fiction.” (Village Voice)

“[O]ne of the best [horror] collections of the year. Hill is a relative newcomer who consistently creates creepy, very disturbing stories.” (Locus)

“Each tale is unique, and the collection proves that Hill’s talent is not limited to horror, but extends well into the mainstream.” (Denver Rocky Mountain News)

“[An] inventive collection . . . brave and astute.” (New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice))

“[A] new take on the fantasy-horror genre...Highly recommended.” (The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia))

“The selections range from the mundane to the surreal, with a strong emphasis on the kind of horror tale perfected by Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub and Stephen King.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“This solid, inventive, scary collection of stories reveals a writer who has thought hard about the problematics of horror.” (New York Times on 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS)

“Each of these chilling tales arrests you from the opening sentence and leads you — trustingly, thanks to the simple mastery of the story-teller — into a place of gulping fear.” (Daily Mail (London) on 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS)

“Subtle and disturbing in equal measure.” (Coventry Telegraph on 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS)

“Irresistible stories.” (Evening Herald (Ireland)) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joe certainly has a gift! Sept. 3 2007
Format:Hardcover
Joe Hill has a lot stacked against him... The advance press and the expectations generated... A lot of horror fans know that many of the stories included here are already award winners... Whatever people feel should be delivered by the son of Stephen King... The fact that his first novel has already been optioned and is being turned into a big screen Hollywood movie...

But dammit, he delivers!

Although Heart Shaped Box, his aforementioned first novel, was published earlier this year, technically this compilation was his first published book. It was issued by PS Publishing, a small press in the UK over 2 years ago (thanks Peter!!!) and pulls together many of Joe's works that had been printed in magazines and anthologies.

These 16 stories (although only 15 are listed on the title page - you have to find the last one) include mention of ghosts, nasty people, dysfunctional families, perhaps idiot savants, killers and more.

Whether he is writing in the first or third person he finds a way to suck you into a story so that you can't get out until it's over. He's included tales about horror writers that scare you on their own, ghosts that stick around, inflatable kids and the impact left upon those that knew them once they're gone, kids that turn into giant, killing insects, the legacy of having a vampire hunter as a father, collectors of the odd and more.

You can tell that Joe was developing his style or voice as he wrote these works. One or two come to what you'd expect was the obvious ending... Some throw in a twist that you weren't expecting... But what stands out more than anything is the relationships between the characters in each story. Regardless of the premise, they're believable!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Typical Jan. 15 2014
By WandaK
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not your typical ghost stories at all. But much, much more enjoyable! Many of the stories have unexpected endings. A pleasure to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection of short stories. June 22 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although it took reading some of Joe Hill's longer stories to become a fan, I now appreciate his shorter stories immensely. The worst part of this book was finishing it, I can't wait to read whatever he writes next!
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4.0 out of 5 stars He's gonna be one of my favourite authors. July 16 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Started reading. This is my introduction to Joe Hill. He's gonna be one of my favourite authors.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  311 reviews
101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and True Nov. 8 2007
By Brian Kaufman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Reading is a collaborative event. When the collaboration is good, the story resonates inside, touching on some emotion or history that the reader brings to the table. The very best stories are fresh and specific, though, so simply tapping into pop culture or tired archetypes won't work as an authorial technique. The story has to touch something deeper. It has to be true.

In bypassing pop clichés, the ending of a truly great story should be a surprise--not because of a trick, but because in telling the truth, the clichés get left behind.

I was three stories deep in Joe Hill's "20th Century Ghosts" before I decided that I was reading the freshest, most surprising, truest speculative fiction I'd read in decades. Each piece in this book is a gem. "Best New Horror" is a formulaic tale about an editor who's tired of formula stories. The last paragraph of the tale takes an exhilarating turn that struck me as poetic--completely reframing the story. "Pop Art" is the most unusual, touching piece of fiction I can remember. The title is a pun, and the story is absurd. How could it leave me in tears? "Better than Home" is an odd father-son love story. What is a story about baseball, uncontrollable saliva, dead bodies under a covered bridge and the joys of throwing peanut shells on the steps doing in a collection of horror tales? Fitting in quite nicely. Every tale here belongs.

Critics often say, "I couldn't put the book down." I put 20th Century Ghosts down a half-dozen times, asking myself, "How could this guy be so damned good?" Do yourself a huge favor. Buy 20th Century Ghosts and "begin collaborating" with this most talented author.
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 15 wonderful, original and bizarre stories Oct. 16 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Joe Hill has received many, many awards. This book was originally published in Britain by PS Publishing in 2005, and it won the British Fantasy Award, The International Horror Guild Award, and the Bram Stoker Award for best collection. He is also a 2006 World Fantasy Award winner, for his novella Voluntary Committal, which appears in the same book. He is the author of Heart Shaped Box. Joe, 35, is the son of authors Stephen King and Tabitha King.

Twentieth Century Ghosts contains 15 of the most severely bizarre and original stories ever conceived. Hill has been influenced by Malamud and Kafka. These tales are the stuff of Twilight Zone, seriously creepy and macabre, full of spectral and often perverse violence. Any parent other than Stephen King might be very concerned.

I think my favorite was "Pop Art," a fable of an inflatable teen, and his best friend, who happens to have a nasty father with a vicious dog. Or maybe it was "Voluntary Committal," where seriously schizophrenic Morris Lerner, builder of elaborate basement cardboard box mazes, helps out his older brother by getting rid of a nasty pal.

"Most of my stories are really that simple. They're built around the collision of the real and the impossible..." from an interview with Joe Hill by Daniel M. Jaffe on the web site Biblio Buffet.

NOTE: Many of the stories feature threatened children. If this sort of thing bothers you, stay away.

Armchair Interviews says: Read this one with the lights on.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Debut, Imaginative Short Fiction Oct. 18 2007
By Anastasia Beaverhausen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Before "The Heart-Shaped Box" hit the bestseller charts, Joe Hill released this book as a limited edition short story collection. It won numerous awards in 2005--Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, British Fantasy Award for Best Collection, and the International Horror Guild Award for Best Collection--all before Hill was "outed" as the second son of novelists Stephen and Tabitha King.

The 14 stories included outshine his debut novel, featuring a wide variety of protagonists and situations outside of the norm in horror. In fact, not every story has supernatural elements--several stories here originally appeared in "literary" journals. "Abraham's Boys" is a post-modern twist on Van Helsing, while Hill updates Kafka with "You Will Hear the Locust Sing." The most disturbing stories, however, have no blood and gore, such as mind-freak "My Father's Mask." The novella that concludes this collection, "Voluntary Committal," is one of the most haunting novellas ever written. This edition also contains the short story "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead," which was not previously published in the UK edition.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunted Characters, Haunting Stories... May 18 2008
By gaimangirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
So the cat's out of the bag now that Joe Hill is one of Stephen King's sons. Well, no such thing as nepotism here, because this is an absolutely beautiful book--definitely on my list of favorites.

Hill wears his influences and inspirations on his sleeve. "You Will Hear the Locust Sing" is like Kafka's The Metamorphosis set during a 1950's giant bug movie. "Abraham's Boys" is his take on the Van Helsing character from Dracula. "The Cape" is both a realistic character study and a superhero origin story. "20th Century Ghost" is a nostalgic homage to both film history, in general, and Steven Spielberg, in particular.

Yet, none of the stories ever feel derivative or lazy, because Hill always manages to add some new or unexpected twist. Many of the stories are disturbing, some are even shocking, but they also manage to be humorous, warm, and tender. There's authentic emotional depth in these tales. I can't manage to make it through "Pop Art," the absolute masterpiece of the collection, without crying every single time.

The title couldn't be more accurate, because these stories all feature characters that are haunted--haunted by their pasts, by inner demons, by troubled childhoods, and horrible secrets. Identity seems to be the common theme that connects these stories--how do we decide who we are? Is it a gift (or a curse) from our families? Do we decide ourselves who we are? Do we embrace our secret self (You Will Hear the Locust Sing, The Cape), do we run from it (Best New Horror), do we hide from it (Voluntary Committal)? Are we predetermined to become our parents (My Father's Mask)?

Hill displays incredible talent in this book. I can't wait to see what he produces in the future. In the meantime, I highly recommend this one.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 20th Centry Ghosts Dec 8 2007
By J. Hatridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are expecting a collection of ghost stories, please reset your expectations, or you will be disappointed. There are a couple of ghost stories, some 1950's style horror stories, some modern horror, some supernatural and some straight fiction. I picked this book up after reading Joe Hill's "Heart Shaped Coffin". I was impressed with the straight-forward writing style used in that book, and I wanted to see some of his earlier work. I wasn't disappointed.

The short story titled "20th Century Ghost" is a very good ghost story whereas "Best New Horror" was a very good modern horror story. These two stories were my favorites with "Voluntary Commitment", "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead", "The Black Phone", and "The Widow's Breakfast" not far behind. If you are looking for an enjoyable collection of short stories with a mix of topics, try this book.
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