Sunday, November 26, 2017

[Book Review] 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Book Review of 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill is an awesome short story collection that has a little something for everyone! The stories range from sweet and heartfelt, to horrifying and unsettling. To top it all off, many of the stories have paranormal elements woven into them.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

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. . . .

My thoughts:
I tend to struggle a bit when it comes to short story collections. With this collection, I decided to pick up the book and read a story or two, then put it down for a bit rather than trying to sit and plow through story after story after story...

So it took me a long while to finish this book, but I definitely think I am going to use this method for future short story collections!

As a whole, I really enjoyed this book! I just love Joe Hill's writing style, and it was really interesting to see him take on various themes throughout the collection.

Of course, as with any other short story collection, there were many stories that I loved, while some were a bit of a miss for me. Out of the sixteen stories in this collection, this is my rating breakdown:
  • 5 Stars- 6
  • 4 Stars- 4
  • 3 Stars- 4
  • 2 Stars- 2
  • 1 Star- 0

Look for the second highlighted marker to continue post-spoiler.

Best New Horror (5/5)- A short story about a very unsettling short story. So clever! The short story inside this one truly unnerved me. So of course I was antsy to see where the main storyline of this one would go. 

20th Century Ghost (5/5)- A ghost story about an old movie theater with a beautiful twist. 

Pop Art (5/5)- A lovely story about friendship. 

You Will Hear the Locust Sing (3/5)- A bizarre and dark story about a boy that turned into an insect. 

Abraham’s Boys (4/5)- An awesome short about a father with a secret job that doesn’t allow his two boys to stay out after dark. 

Better Than Home (4/5)- A heartwarming story about family dynamics. 

The Black Phone (5/5)- A very suspenseful story about a boy that gets kidnapped. I LOVED this one. From start to finish, I was totally hooked. One of my issues with short stories is that I am either uninterested, or I want them to be longer. This one was perfect.

In The Rundown (4/5)- A story about a man that stumbles across a crime scene on his way home from work. The situation gets more intense as the story progresses. 

The Cape (4/5)- A story about a man that can float. I was hoping he would make things right with his lady, but I did not see that ending coming! Phew!

Last Breath (5/5)- This story was so creepy! There was also a sci-fi element. I loved it! I wish the family had spent more time in the museum so we could have read more examples of other last breaths! And the ending was perfect!

Dead-Wood (3/5)- This was a super short one, just a little over a page long. But interesting! Definitely got me thinking about ghosts that aren’t just humans. 

The Widow’s Breakfast (3/5)- Phew, that was a dark one. Very sad, but I still enjoyed it! 

Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead (2/5)- This was a fun story about a zombie movie! Unfortunately I didn’t much like the characters and the storyline was a bit bring to me.

My Father’s Mask (2/5)- This one was a bit too odd for me. Masks creep me out. I kept feeling like something more was about to happen, but it didn’t. 

Voluntary Committal (3/5)- I didn’t really care for the characters in this one, but the box forts were super interesting to me! And the sic-fi element was wonderful! 

The fact that Joe Hill hid a story in the acknowledgements was awesome! I’ve never seen that done before.

Scheherazade’s Typewriter (5/5)- So fun! I love the idea of a spirit returning to write! 


My favorite passages:

The corridor itself seemed crooked somehow. The floor felt tilted underfoot, so much so that once Carroll had to touch the wall to steady himself. Floorboards were missing. A chandelier hung with crystal pendants floated above the stairwell, furred with lint and cobwebs. In some distant, echoing room of Carroll’s mind, a hunchback played the opening bars of The Addams Family on a glockenspiel.

What I really like is breakfast cereal. I’d have Kix three times a day if it was up to me. 

Minutes did not pass, collecting into hours. There was no point in thinking about time in the old way. There was only one moment and then another moment, in a string of moments that went on in a quiet, deadly procession.

Anything could happen out there where the world touches the sky.

And maybe I have to admit that I’m writing this, not to show it to anyone, but because I can’t help myself, and a blank page is the only safe audience for the story I can imagine.

My final thoughts:
Overall, I thought this was a great short story collection! I can definitely see myself picking the book up every now and again just to re-read certain stories. 

If you're looking for a short story collection that ranges in theme, but keeps a spooky underlying tone, you gotta check this one out!

Thanks for reading!
What is your favorite horror themed short story collection?


  1. I can't always totally get into the short stories, but I do enjoy reading them once in awhile! This sounds like something I will enjoy and I love how you've rated all the stories on itself :)

    1. I'm the same way. I definitely recommend trying to just read one short story at a time, then putting the book down for a bit :) It helped me!

  2. Great review! I'm a big fan of Joe Hill and I loved this collection.

  3. I read this several years ago and since a lot of the stories you mentioned didn't ring a bell, it's definitely time for a reread. I'm hoping to read NOS4A2 this December but I have to see what else is on the TBR before I commit.

  4. I don't think I've ever read a horror short story collection. Might have to check this out!

  5. Great review. I did skip the spoilers as I've got this one somewhere... lol Happy Monday!