Joe Hill’s Strange Weather is a stark examination of the duality of man. The four short novels expose the individual and societal pressures that motivate our sometimes fateful decisions. The first story, Snapshot, is nearly a sentimental coming-of-age tale with an added bit of horror, both real and imagined. Thirteen year-old Michael, a self-proclaimed coward, begins to examine the impact we have on others, when his kindly neighbor, Shelly Beukes, begins wandering the neighborhood, hiding from the “Polaroid Man.” Forced to confront his own fears, Michael discovers that Shelly’s Alzheimers may not be what it seems.
The second story, Loaded, is an unflinching look at what has become a common tragedy, mass shooting. The lives and histories of Aisha, a young black mother who, as a child, witnessed a family friend gunned down for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; Becki, a young white woman who becomes entangled in a messy affair with her boss; and Kellaway, a veteran whose family life has fallen apart as he falls into a pattern of domestic abuse. No clear villain emerges, and each find themselves under Hill’s perceptive microscope.
The third novel, Aloft, is an unrequited-love-meets-the-Twilight-Zone story that touches on loneliness and the lies we tell ourselves. Aubrey Griffen, fool-heartedly agrees to a bucket list challenge in honor of a deceased friend and bandmate, but he mostly does it for Harriet (despite being consciously aware of the fact that there is absolutely NO CHANCE that she would ever be in love with him). A strange occurrence forces his jump after he chickens out, and he finds himself stranded on a “cloud.” The cloud appears to be sentient and eager to fill his needs, though he quickly realizes that all might not be well in his cloud kingdom.
The final story, Rain, is a tad more poignant and introspective, though less-than-kind in its imagining of our response to real and unexplained catastrophe. Filled with satirical, and frighteningly realistic, portrayals of consumerism and corporate hegemony, Rain, is a what-if tale that will stick with you. What would you do if the rain was suddenly transformed into piercing crystals? Would your loyalty take you as far as Honeysuckle’s love for Yolanda took her?
All four tales often gave me pause and made me think. The horror was often a side show that augmented a close look at our own human frailty. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of character-driven works of horror and/or drama.
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