When Joe Hill started this collection of supernatural fables, over a decade ago, he had no idea how relevant they’d feel now. With stories featuring separatist militias, hyper-capitalists, and end time scenarios Full Throttle is pairs perfectly with the mood of 2020.
The stories include:
Ever see Duel, that Stephen Spielberg movie about the mild mannered driver pursued by a sadistic semitruck? Swap the mild mannered driver with a biker gang fuming over a deal gone wrong and you have the ingredients for one grim revenge thriller.
This is a collaboration between Hill and his father, an obscure word wrangler by the name of Stephen King.
There are few atmospheres more ominous than a creepy carnival (see Something Wicked this Way Comes, Silent Hill, and Us). Just add teenagers and you have a recipe for death and despair.
This is nightmare scenario about an unrelenting enemy teaches an important lesson about vandalism.
A hyper-capitalist coffeehouse kingpin finds himself on a train besieged by werewolves, one of whom very much admires the man’s killer instincts.
By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain
When I first heard about the Loch Ness Monster I went to the nearest pond with a pair of binoculars. This story imagines what would happen if some like-minded children found a cryptozoological oddity washed up on their shore.
Big game hunters set out for trophies that are the stuff of fantasy. A grindhouse Lion Witch and the Wardrobe, in a negative image Narnia, served up with a twist.
A down on his luck trucker gets a gig as a bookmobile driver only to discover there’s something off about his patrons. They’ve never heard of The Hunger Games! Are these readers from another dimension? Just what is happening?
This story feels like a lost episode from the original Twilight Zone. It has all of Rod Serling’s trademark nostalgia and all of Ray Bradbury’s affection for fiction.
All I Care About Is You
As a kid I always felt like an imposter when I enjoyed another family’s luxuries: gaming rooms, pools, or boats. These things were fun at birthday parties, but they weren’t meant for me. Since then I’ve always had lowkey status anxiety.
This story takes place in a future where rich girls wear virtual faces and sky dive in protective bubbles. A future where healing technology enables the poor to play perpetual murder victims. A future where a 16 year old girl meets a coin operated boy and confesses the status anxiety she’s been concealing from her friends.
A soldier, with a sketchy past and an equally sketchy present, has a secret admirer who deals in thumbprints.
For an obscure writer who has received the occasional death threat, this type of story gets under my skin.
The Devil on the Staircase
Some paths are opened with wealth. Some are opened by status. And others are unlocked by murder. Take the stone staircase in this story that leads from a crime of passion to a Faustian bargain. A deal with the devil story with some not so subtle commentary on racism.
According to the FBI, domestic terrorism is a greater threat than ones posed by foreign extremists. At least in 2020.
This story is set in a not too distant future where separatists have cut out a part of the country where they teach their own history and have their own currency. A group of extremists are fixing to go on a mission to the old union and recreate the Oklahoma city bombing. A young mother struggles to flee to the states, with her son, before her husband can enact his plan.
Oh, and there’s a supernatural element.
In the Tall Grass
A brother and sister learn no good dead goes unpunished, when they pull over to the side of the road to help a boy find his way out of the tall grass. Thus begins a brutal hike into the alien geometry subgenre of horror fiction. Like the films Cube or Triangle, but flat and on dry land.
Once again, Joe Hill teams up with his budding storyteller father, for a hardcore horror story. This was adapted into feature for Netflix, which was much gentler than its source material.
You are Released
Where were you when the apocalypse happened? Trapped on an airplane amidst a series of politically polarizing conversations? How would you coup with the mushroom clouds on the horizon? What would you do if there was no place left to land?
Get the audiobook if you can
If you’re looking for exercise while you’re social distancing I recommend you take Full Throttle out for a run.
Each story is read by a different narrator including Ashleigh Cummings and Zachary Quinto who are cast members of the AMC drama NOS4A2, based on Jill Hill’s novel. Connor Jessup who appeared in Locke & Key based on the comic by Joe Hill, and Laysla De Oliveira who appeared in Locke & Key and In the Tall Grass.
There are also readings by author Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill himself.
If you’re looking for something creepy clever and social relevant now is the perfect time to discover Joe Hill. Imagine Tales from the Dark Side meets Black Mirror and you’ll have a good idea what’s going on here.
Continue reading Summer Reading Recommendation: Full Throttle By Joe Hill