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I am a huge Joe Hill fan, hence the multiple part, detailed review of his newest story collection. His graphic novel series Locke & Key is one of the most perfectly executed comic series in existence. His short story collection 20th Century Ghosts is literary, full of spark and terror, as well as a masterpiece in plot and character in every single story. The novel Heart-Shaped Box is a horror driven thrill ride that keeps the pages burning as the reader keeps them turning. This collection, Full Throttle, is Hill’s newest release in fiction and fourth collection of short stories. This story collection was somewhat wishy washy for me. I loved a lot of pieces while I really disliked others. My general observation is that the collection begins with the worst stories. Do not let this discourage you. There are some true gems in this collection, even if you have to traverse the mediocre to get to them.

Below is my breakdown of the first four stories of the book and my reactions to them:

“Throttle” (written with Stephen King)

This story originally appeared in He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson and was written in 2009. I despised this story. I was hoping for so much more having known this story was written as a collaboration between father and son, both horror masters. This is the story of a group of bikers that have committed a horrible crime and the karma that ensues. This story is predictable and feels ripped directly from the Joy Ride move franchise. If you’ve seen those films, just skip this one. The gore for gore’s sake and predictability of what you could barely call a “twist” at the end made this story immemorable and disappointing.

“Dark Carousel”

This story is one that travels the spectrum of emotions. Nostalgic, disgusted, terrified. There are some images in this story, namely of carousel animals come to life, that are truly twisted. This story feels like a trip into the 1980s with a group of teenagers the summer before they go away to college. The time period is not mentioned, but Hill creates an ambience of simpler summer times. The end of the story, as it jumps forward in time, is rushed, but the images that appear to scare and thrill in this story are top notch. This piece leaves something to be desired, but is easily the best of the first three stories.

“Wolverton Station”

This story features Saunders, a man whose career relies on the destruction of others. As the hatchet man for Jimi coffee and making millions, he devises ways to take business from local mom and pop shops and shut them down to eliminate competition for the Jimi’s chain. When Saunders gets on the subway with a strange creature one day, he learns the meaning of karma. This story reads a bit like a gory fairy tale with a moral inside. It was very trite and predictable, which I found happening a lot in the beginning of this collection. The ending was just awful, and nothing happened that I didn’t already know would. I want to see something new from Joe Hill, as I know he’s capable of wowing with. This is not it.

“By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain”

This is the first great story in this collection. FINALLY! This is what I knew Hill could create! Hill creates character development that is complex and unspoken in many parts. He leaves enough for his readers to connect the dots in their own way and makes the events of the story ambiguous, giving the prose an unsettling air. Gail and Joel, along with their younger siblings, find a dinosaur washed up on the lake. What happens next speaks to mortality, in both humans and animals. This piece was truly fantastic. Compelling plot forwarded by the masterful prose.

Stay tuned for the second installment of Full Throttle review –

Sarah Moon is a stone-cold sorceress from Tennessee whose interests include serial killers, horror fiction, and the newest dystopian blockbuster. Sarah holds an M.A. in English Literature and an M.F.A. in Fiction Writing. She works as an English professor as well as a cemeterian. Sarah is most likely to cover horror in print including prose, poetry, and graphic forms.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. J.M. Faulkner

    February 5, 2022 at 5:23 am

    Hi, where can I find part 2? I love Joe Hill and I would love to read it 🙂

    • Sarah Moon

      February 8, 2022 at 2:23 pm

      Part Two was never published, but I may have to revisit that! Thanks for the comment!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel

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“That doesn’t invalidate it,” Angel said. “There’s no statute of limitations on pain.”

The Plot

Angel is a man who knows pain: physical, mental, sexual. The story begins with Angel visiting Room 6 at the Lonely Motel and ordering a plus-size sex worker to his room. What comes next is Angel’s retellings of painful stories while performing sexual acts on the sex worker, Shyla.

The novel reads as a book of short stories, as Angel relays stories to Shyla and she tells him stories back. This is a novel of pain and disgust. Angel’s stories are so dark and traumatic that Shyla can’t believe they are true. As Angel bares his soul, we see a side of him that is melancholy and unable to process hurt in a natural way.

The Verdict

This novel is full of disgusting visuals and isn’t afraid to get dirty. This truly is an extreme horror novel. As a warning, there is discussion of feces, blood, rape, sex, and body horror. This novel is not for the faint of heart. You’ll close this short novel feeling dirty. Angel is a character that begs for sympathy while his stories narrate that he may not be as innocent as he perceives.

When the subtitle says this novel is extreme horror, believe it. Only the strong will survive Duncan Ralston’s Woom. It is more splatterpunk than anything, but true literary quality lies beneath the filth.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Read it yourself by clicking below!

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Book Reviews

Did She Do It? Stacy Willingham’s “All the Dangerous Things” Asks Us Just This

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One year ago, Isabelle’s life crumbled when her baby was abducted from her home. Her marriage to her husband, Ben, is destroyed as they try to navigate the fallout.

The Plot

Even one year after the abduction, Isabelle seeks answers. She is still doing appearances at true crime expos to get information on the attendees, thinking the abductor will be there one day. Abductors usually revisit their crime and Isabelle swaps her appearances for the event guest list, never taking any money for her talks.

Some think that Isabelle killed her own baby as evidence from the case says the perpetrator came from inside the house. Isabelle hasn’t slept – not fully – since Mason was abducted. Her therapist is worried that she may be having hallucinations. Is Isabelle the killer or is she on a quest for true justice?

The Verdict

I absolutely loved the complication of not knowing whether Isabelle was a reliable or unreliable narrator. This was my favorite aspect of the novel. It made me question everything that Isabelle had to say and the actions she executed.

Isabelle is a character that, as a mother, I really felt for. I wanted to believe that Isabelle was innocent, but I was hanging on the edge of my seat waiting to find out. Stacy Willingham is the master of a story that winds all around, waiting for you to find the truth.

If you are interested in reading Willingham’s first novel, A Flicker in the Dark, check out my review here.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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