Tag Archive: Joe Hill


According to my account on Goodreads I’ve read 32 books this year, well 33 as I’ve just finished one that is not currently listed on the site. So that’s 2.75 books a month, and I wonder sometimes what I spend all my time doing!

So this year, for the first time, I decided to look through what I had read and list my top 10. I’m not usually a fan of best of lists purely because tastes change on a regular basis. What might be the best today may not be tomorrow simply because something better comes along. But seeing as 2013 is in its last few hours, and the books I have read during the last 12 months will not be repeated, I thought it was fairly safe to put a list together, because even if something better does come along tomorrow, it’ll be 2014 by then.

I should point out this is a list of books I have read in 2013, not a list of books published in 2013.

So to kick things off…

No. 10: Ace Of Skulls by Chris Wooding – whilst I was not totally blow away by this final instalment in the Tales Of The Ketty Jay series it gets a placing simply because it is the final instalment. The series as a whole has been brilliant, with a mix of fantasy, horror and steampunk it was something different and entertaining. The  mixed crew of misfits were instantly likeable and grew on you with each book. Was it original, maybe not. A lot of people likened it to Firefly, but having never seen the show I had no comparison to make.

No. 9: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – a mix of organised crime, fantasy and horror, this is the story of Mookie Pearl. Pearl is a hard man, an enforcer, a killer. He is also privy to the knowledge of the dark forbidden underbelly of the city where monsters lurk and death is ready for the unwilling. Along with Wendig’s trademark no-holds-barred style of story telling this is a great tale full of wit, blood and kick-ass action.

No. 8: Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell – the sequel/prequel to the excellent The Angels Are The Reapers. Set in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen to the zombie hordes. But unlike your run-of-the-mill zombie tale here the walking dead are mere bit part players. Carrying on the tale of Moses Todd this story flashes back to his days on the road with his psychotic brother Abraham,  as he tries to find some form of peace in a broken world. Along the way they encounter a gifted woman who may very well be the cure everyone has dreamt of.

No. 7: Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell – Ack-Ack Macaque is a cigar chomping, whisky swilling one-eyed spitfire pilot, he is also a Monkey. Fighting the hordes of ninja-Nazi paratroopers is what he does, but he is beginning to think everything is not as real as he thinks. This is a unique tale of a sentient ape and his part in the saving of a prince and battle against the coming apocalypse. There is a twist, and its a very inventive twist that allows Ack-Ack to bridge the gap between the 1940s war and the 21st century workd where most of the story is set. Look out for the sequel Hive Monkey due out soon.

No. 6: Age Atomic by Adam Christopher – this is the follow-up to the brilliant Empire State and carries on the story of the Pocket universe that is the mirror of Manhattan. This time round the Empire State is in danger of being destroyed as earth tremors and a freezing winter threaten to tear the fabric of the Pocket apart. On top of that someone is building an army of nuclear powered robots and plan to invade New York.

No. 5: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell – this is the latest in the Saxon Stories and continues the tale of Uhtred. King Alfred is dead, Edward now sits on the throne and his advisor’s and the church have distanced him from his fathers greatest warlord, the pagan Uhtred. After an ill advised trip to punish a wayward son, Uhtred finds himself banished from Wessex, penniless and with only a few faithful warriors still at his side he heads north to finally retake his ancestral home. But the long peace between Wessex and the Danes is about to come to a crashing end, and when the Danes strike, and blood is spilt, Wessex as always will only have one man to turn to to save them.

No. 4: The Split Worlds Trilogy (Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name/All Is Fair) by Emma Newman – the Nether is home to the Fae-touched and is a mirror to Mundanus (Earth). There is a treaty in place that forbids the Fae and their puppets from interfering in the lives of the Mundanes, a treaty enforced by the Sorcerers and their Arbitors. But someone has corrupted one of the Chapters and Mundanes are being snatched from the streets of London. This trilogy is a debut fantasy series and if you didn’t know that you’d be hard pressed to notice. Emma’s writing is pitch perfect, her characters vibrant and three dimensional. The story is one of adventure, conspiracy and rebellion. But in amongst this there is also dark subjects including murder, marital rape and slavery.

 

No. 3: The Copper Promise: Let Sleeping Gods Lie by Jen Williams – I reviewed this in the previous post to this, so most everything I have to say can be read there. But I will say this is a debut fantasy novel that breathes life into the pulp style of story telling that I grew up reading. brilliantly paced, great characters and a plot that carries you through a breathtakingly imagined fantasy world.

No. 2: The Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince Of Thorns/King Of Thorns/Emperor Of Thorns) by Mark Lawrence – another debut fantasy trilogy, and another breath of fresh aired breathed into a genre stuffed full of grim and dark. Jorg of Ancarth has to be one of the darkest characters I’ve come across in a while. Haunted by a childhood tragedy that saw his brother and mother brutally slain, and treated with scorn by an unloving father Jorg does what many boys have done before and runs away. But in running away he joins a troop of road brothers and embarks on a killing spree that would be seen as bloody by any counts, but is made more so because Jorg is barely into his teens at the time. Through the course of the three books Jorg cuts his way from road brother, to King to the Empire Throne, the body count is countless, no-one is safe, including those who ride with him. Does Jorg have redeeming qualities, yes, he is not a mindless killing machine, he does what he does for a reason. But those reasons are not always as clear as you might think.

No. 1: Sarah Pinborough’s Modern Fairy Tales (Poison/Charm/Beauty) by Sarah Pinborough – the title I made up, not sure this series of three novellas actually has an overall title? But still, Sarah’s re-imaging/retelling/modern interpretation (call them what you will) of classic fairy tales are brilliant and by far the best thing I’ve read this year. These are fairy tales for grown-ups, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all come under the spotlight and are given the Pinborough treatment. These are not suitable reading for children, some adults of a sensible nature may want to steer clear as well. Sarah has taken the core of each story and given it a twist, added ingredients and also brought in elements from other fairy stories to make original stories that intrigued and delight.

 

Bubbling under and worthy a mention…

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough – a fresh new take on the Jack the Ripper legend that isn’t about Jack the Ripper.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill – twisted serial killer Charlie Manx kidnaps children and takes them off to Christmasland where he feeds off their fun.

The Shinning Girls by Lauren Beukes – another serial killer but this time one that can time travel between the 1920s and 1990s killing girls that show some spark of greatness.

Space Danger by Doug Strider – a series of self published novellas set about a starship captained by Kurt Dangler. To sum this up its a mix of Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Ripping Yarns, in space.

 

 

 

 

nos4r2Title: NOS4R2

Author: Joe Hill

Publisher: Gollancz

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print £18.99 – Kindle £9.49

No matter what Joe Hill does he’ll always be compared to his father, and those comparisons in NOS4R2 are there for all to see, highlighted by big neon signs with arrows pointing to them. But this is not a bad thing, I’ve been a Stephen King fan for a lot of years (OK we did fall out over that ending to The Dark Tower but that’s in the past now), and to date I’ve read and enjoyed all of Joe’s work because of the comparisons to his dad. That’s not to say you’re getting a clone of something that has been done before, Joe’s work is unique, the stories original, but they all have that magical “King” ingredient.

With NOS4R2 I feel Joe Hill has found his stride, whilst Heart Shaped Box and Horns were great stories with fantastic characters, here you have a story with a grand vista, a rich history and characters that will be with you long after you put the book down. Also there are seeds sown, subtle single line seeds that begin the process of joining the worlds Joe has so far created together in their own multiverse. This is the most striking comparison to what his father has already so brilliantly done, and it’s left me wondering if – maybe – in Charlie Talent Manx III Joe has found his Randall Flagg?

In Charlie – and his associate Bing Partridge, aka the Gasmask Man – Joe has created dark twisted characters to rival any that have gone before. Both have no redeeming qualities, they are totally rotten to the core and no act, no depravity, is beyond them. And the depravities they relish are there for all to see, in glorious technicolour. Manx is old, over a hundred years old, he drives around the country in his vintage 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith – with the vanity plate of NOS4R2 – taking children and transporting them to his own personal wonderland, called Christmasland, where they never grow old and slowly lose their humanity.

To counterpoint the bad we have the good, in the shape of Victoria McQueen, child of a broken home, with a gift that enables her to travel across The Shorter Way Bridge – a bridge that was destroyed years before – to find that which is lost, objects, people and ultimately someone else who shares her gift. But a gift can be a curse, especially when she asks the Bridge to take her to find a person no-one else has been able to find, someone no other sane person would not want to find.

Vic McQueen became famous at an early age, she was the only child to escape the clutches of Charlie Manx. But that escape was only the start, a quarter decade later Vic must again face the horror, must again travel the United Inscape of America, and visit Christmasland to try to finally end the horror that is Charles Talent Manx III.

Title – In The Tall Grass

Authour – Stephen King & Joe Hill

Publisher – Gollancz

Price – £0.99 (Kindle) – £10. 10 (audio)

 

 

 

 

 

King and Hill, Father and Son, a dynamic duo with equal strengths, twisted imaginations and the ability to turn in a diabolical tale from something as simple as a field of grass.

Going in I was expecting some side-story along the lines of Children Of The Corn, but I was wrong, this is as far removed from that classic King tale as Count Duckula is from Bram Stokers Dracula. OK maybe slight exaggeration, but you get my drift?

Anyone familiar with both author’s work will know they are brilliant at visualising everyday settings with a sinister, supernatural twist. In this trimmed down short story you get all that, without the high page count. A brother and sister taking a road trip across America hear a cry for help from within a field of tall grass. Deciding to go help they soon find themselves disorientated, lost and slowly becoming spooked by their surroundings.

The scares are fast in coming, the horror slow in building, and the pay-off though predictable is satisfying. Also, as an added bonus you get two neat excerpts after the main event, a preview of Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep – a prequel to The Shining – and an excerpt to Joe Hill’s next novel NOS4R2, which might be about vampires (based on the title alone).

 

 

Gollancz have revealed coves for a couple of forthcoming novels. The first due in 2013 and the other as yet has no publication date.

NOS4R2 is the new novel by Joe Hill.

 

Based on the title I’d guess this is a vampire story. Interestingly, after a search online, 1931 (the date on the plate) was the year the original Dracula staring Bela Lugosi was released. Not sure if that’s relevant though.

 

The Dark Defiles is the third in the A Land Fit For Heroes trilogy by Richard Morgan.

 

Continuing the story of Ringil Eskiath this last installment promises to be fairly packed with numerous storylines coming to a head. Richard has posted that to date the word count in increasing and hinting he may have to split the book.

 

Horns

By Joe Hill

Published by Gollancz

Readily available in paperback and Kindle

RRP £7.99 in Paperback / £4.99 Kindle

Ignatius Parrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. Next morning he woke with a hell of a hangover, and horns growing from his temples. Once Ig had a blessed life, a life of privilege. The second son of a well know musician, brother to a rising late-night chat show host, he has wealth, security, status; and the love of the girl of his dream Merrin Williams.

Then Merrin was gone, ripped from his life, brutally raped and murdered, but worse Ig was the Police’s prime suspect. Although never tried for the crime he was convicted by the court of public opinion. He was whispered about, shunned, ignored. Everything he had taken from him.

Now he had the horns, and with them a terrible power to look into people’s darkest secrets and lay them bare. With a touch he knows what they know, with a suggestion he can steer them to do as he wishes. Ig sets out on a quest to find who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best never got him anywhere, now it’s time for payback, time the Devil got his due.

This is the second novel by Joe Hill, and like Heart-Shaped Box has left me thinking why I’m so late in reading his work. The way this story unfolds may seem daunting to some, it is told in a non-linear fashion jumping around in time looking at events in the present as well as before and during the core of the story; the rape and murder of Merrin Williams.

Throughout the story you are given an insight into the main characters, either through the parts told during Ig & Merrin’s first meeting and after, or through the power of the horns enabling Ig to see into people minds. In this way you get the back-story to the couple, and their friends, as well as different POV’s of the lead up, and eventual crime, inflicted on Merrin. Through the power of the horns Ig unravels the events of the night Merrin died. Ig’s own memories of that night are vague – due to him passing out blind drunk – meaning there is some lingering doubt throughout for the reader if he is actually the killer.

As much as telling the story of Merrin’s death and the aftermath, the book also looks at how the character of the Devil is perceived. Ideas are put forward that in some ways the Devil is an anti-hero, not the embodiment of total evil. Another is that God and the Devil are on the same side, both out to punish sinners. To some these ideas may not sit well, I suppose it depends on your faith, as an atheist I find them interesting and do fall in camp of the Devil getting a bad – and one sided – press.

Joe has taken great care to create a believable and sustainable world. Much like his first book he has taken pains to make the settings and characters comfortable to be around. He has also laid seeds for a shared universe with the name check for a character from Heart-Shaped Box; Judas Coyne.

Horns is a story about the devil inside all of us, and what happens when we let them have free reign. 

Heart-Shaped Box

By Joe Hill

Published by Gollancz

Readily available in paperback and Kindle

RRP £7.99 in Paperback / £4.99 Kindle

Judas “Jude” Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals, a real hangman’s noose, a snuff film. He’s an aging death-metal god and his tastes for the unnatural are well known to his legions of fans. But nothing he possesses matches his latest purchase, a dead man’s suit.

For $1,000 Judas became the owner of a suit said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door packed in the black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no conversation piece. Suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere, behind the bedroom door, sitting in the passenger seat of Jude’s restored Mustang; staring out from the widescreen TV.

But the ghost has no interest in simple haunting; it has a purpose, a reason to be in Jude’s house. Everywhere Jude goes the ghost is there with a gleaming razor blade on a chain hanging from its hand.

It’s been a lot of years since I read a ghost story, I’d hazard a guess it was the early 1980s, and was probably written by Joe Hill’s father.  As I read Heart-Shaped Box I was reminded a lot of King’s early work, his attention to detail with all things every-day. Hill’s style does differ from his father’s though; the story is tighter, more compact and the suspense delivered in sharper doses.

The idea behind the story is pretty straightforward; a vengeful spirit intent on righting a wrong. But as you get into the story you realize there is more to it. The wrong the ghost is attempting to right, is not as clear cut as you at first thought; the ghost’s motivations clouded by what its sense of right and wrong was when it was alive. It is all helped by very believable characters (if a ghost can be said to be believable) that are put in a situation that, despite its supernatural element, feels very real.

Judas Coyne is every inch the aging rocker living out his semi-retirement with a string of young girls to keep his bed warm. Georgia, his latest bed warmer, is not just there as someone for the ghost to chase though, she’s a very strong character, very resourceful, obviously made from the same stuff that made Buffy Summers. Together they are thrown into a nightmare with seemingly no escape route, embarking on a harrowing road-trip not only fleeing the ghost but taking Jude into his past.

If you are a heavy metal fan you’ll love the references dotted throughout, the nods to bands great and small. If you’re a fan of good old fashioned ghost stories you’ll love the way this story is assembled, the pieces carefully crafted. Joe Hill maybe his father’s son and may share his love of rock and the macabre, but he is his own man and this tale – although echoing some of King’s earlier work – has a very distinctive voice that is Hill’s and Hill’s alone.