This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
01.10.19 / Gollancz / Surreal-Horror / Hardback / 496pp / 978-1473219892
Target Audience: For fans of both Joe Hill and Stephen King. For those who will enjoy or appreciate an unsettling, disturbing and out right horrifying deep-dive on humanity through a varied collection of short stories.
About Full Throttle
In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including “In The Tall Grass,” one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.
A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in “Faun.” A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in “Late Returns.” In “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality . . . and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths. And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in “Throttle,” co-written with Stephen King.
Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a bevy of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears.
Full Throttle Review
Joe Hill’s latest short story collection Full Throttle is remarkable in many ways. Firstly it is an awesome selection of Hill’s most chillingly human, eerie and fearsome tales that have ever been put to page. Secondly it is a commendable ode to his father, Stephen King, who’s shadow he initially avoided for fear of being associated with imitation. Eventually Hill came to accept that his dad was a huge influence on his whole life, including his creativity, and embraced the idea of writing without that restriction.
Finally, and most importantly, it is a celebration of Hill’s progression in his career, a writer honing his craft over decades to become a heavyweight in unsettling, terrifying and supernatural narratives in his own way. Building confidence and presence through short stories. Plus he collaborated with Stephen King twice here and both stories are as wild as they are brilliant.
Full Throttle begins with its namesake which is a tense yet satisfying tale of a father and son, written by father and son. Heavily inspired by Sons of Anarchy and the movie Duel, Full Throttle sees a gang of outlaw bikers chased by a faceless man in a big rig. It perfectly sets the scene for this book, giving the reader a heavy dose of adrenaline and horror as a man watches his son flee for his life. I could not envisage a more perfect meeting place for King and Hill’s talents to meet.
That life and death tension remains in the next tale The Dark Carousel in which a group of kids are stalked by nightmarish carousel animals. Stark in contrast in every way to Full Throttle but just as brilliant. Joe Hill is forever trying to give the reader new perspectives on humanity and the third short, Wolverton Station, takes us into the wolves den with a man who sold out the world for convenience.
My favourite story, which will haunt me for a long time is By The Silver Water of Lake Chaplain, where the corpse of a lake monster is discovered by a couple of kids. It is a bittersweet mix of charming childish fantasy and crushing grief. The last moments are ingrained in my mind now, so thanks for that Joe Hill. There are a wide variety of stories here for all audiences. Fantasy, science fiction, horror, thriller, darkness and love all come together to create a memorable experience.
I could blather on about each and every piece, from a lonely girl who spends her dream birthday experience with a rent-a-bot to a young man’s descent to hell told in prose literally in the shape of staircases. Hill proves his versatility over and over and the results are as horrifying as they are endearing. Full Throttle has an incredibly strong finale. A duo of In The Tall Grass and You Are Released left me astounded by how easy it is turn something simple into a completely unspeakable nightmare.
Hill believes that a story collection should feel like it flows and connects together to allow the reader a sense of narrative and development and I definitely think he succeeded in this objective with Full Throttle. Joe Hill infuses his stories with a strong sense of family, of humanity (or lack of) and a talent for subjective horror that, though does frighten and disgust at regular intervals, mainly leaves the reader personally disturbed. What one person might find non-threatening, another will find immensely unsettling, eerie or scary.
The one element that unites all of Joe Hills work is his influences. Hill is proud of how each story is influenced by a life spent with writers, horror visionaries and comic book villains. None of the pieces in this collection, or of any of Hill’s works not matter the inspirations, feel like an afterthought or an undercooked idea just an extension of Hill’s perspective on the world around him. Most of them feel like Hill has restrained himself from going bigger which is a shame because I would have loved to see more from some of these stories.
Joe Hill seems to have always believed he has something to prove. With that mindset he has consistently ventured outside the box (no matter the shape) and the stories he finds there always bring something new back to the world. Seemingly putting as much thought into a visit to a zombie circus, chronicled through a series of tweets, as he would a time travelling bookmobile that revisits ghosts with unfinished business and more importantly unfinished books.
Being original yet also twisting the tales we remember from books past into new experiences, less innocent, more taboo and providing increasingly enticing insights into mental illness, grief, morality, family and consequences. I would love to see Joe Hill write a happy ending because it would completely blow my mind to smithereens. (I have always wanted to use smithereens in a review).
I highly recommend Full Throttle because it is a box of full of unexpected and potentially disgusting treats. Yes you might get a story that burns a whole in your throat but you may also find another that resonates with wherever you are in your life right now. If you are just looking for cool stories that provide shock and awe then this is for you. If you look for something deeper in a narrative then Hill has you covered as well. Oh and if you think that because you have watched In The Tall Grass on Netflix that you don’t need to read the short story, you could not be more wrong!
About Joe Hill
Joe Hill is a recipient of the Ray Bradbury Fellowship and the winner of the A.E. Coppard Long Fiction Prize, William Crawford, World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards. His short fiction has appeared in literary, mystery and horror collections and magazines in Britain and America. For more information, visit http://www.joehillfiction.com, visit joehillsthrills.tumblr.com, or follow @Joe_Hill on twitter.