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20th Century Ghosts

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A collection of short stories.

Imogene is young and beautiful. She kisses like a movie star and knows everything about every film ever made. She's also dead and waiting in the Rosebud Theater for Alec Sheldon one afternoon in 1945....

Arthur Roth is a lonely kid with big ideas and a gift for attracting abuse. It isn't easy to make friends when you're the only inflatable boy in town....

Francis is unhappy. Francis was human once, but that was then. Now he's an eight-foot-tall locust and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing....

John Finney is locked in a basement that's stained with the blood of half a dozen other murdered children. In the cellar with him is an antique telephone, long since disconnected, but which rings at night with calls from the dead....

The past isn't dead. It isn't even past...

316 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Joe Hill

528 books25.5k followers
Joe Hill's debut, Heart-Shaped Box, won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. His second, Horns, was made into a film freakfest starring Daniel Radcliffe. His other novels include NOS4A2, and his #1 New York Times Best-Seller, The Fireman... which was also the winner of a 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Horror Novel.

He writes short stories too. Some of them were gathered together in his prize-winning collection, 20th Century Ghosts.

He won the Eisner Award for Best Writer for his long running comic book series, Locke & Key, co-created with illustrator and art wizard Gabriel Rodriguez.

He lives in New Hampshire with a corgi named McMurtry after a certain beloved writer of cowboy tales. His next book, Strange Weather, a collection of novellas, storms into bookstores in October of 2017.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,744 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book82k followers
March 18, 2020

Seldom does a collection of weird stories feature a style so accomplished, a range of tone and mood so broad, or a generosity so profound. Hill, the son of Stephen King, inherits his father's empathy for the ordeals of childhood as well as his artfulness in constructing a tale, but he also possesses a warmth and an elegance all his own.

At times his stories are chilling and gripping like the horror fiction of King ("The Black Phone"), but at other times they are gentle and elegiac like Bradbury ("Better Than Home") or quirky and humorous like Vonnegut ("Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead"). And then there are times when Hill's writing is so good that comparisons don't arise. There is the self-aware, post-modernist work in which a well-known anthologist gets savagely schooled by a contributor about what constitutes "The Best in Modern Horror," the unsettling tale about the effect of family disguises and games on a son ("My Father's Mask"), the powerful, sustained novella about an autistic brother who can construct marvelous, imprisoning labyrinths, a story which never loses its horror or its humanity ("Voluntary Committal"), or the masterpiece--I do not use the term lightly--about an "inflatable" childhood friend ("Pop Art") that has something to teach every reader about disability and transcendence.
Profile Image for Wil Wheaton.
Author 91 books204k followers
September 6, 2013
Absolutely wonderful book. This is a collection of stores that will have you crying, checking for monsters under the bed, and wondering how the hell Joe Hill came up with that.

Comparisons to Joe's dad will be unavoidable, especially from those of us who read Night Shift and Skeleton Crew at a certain age ... and though I believe Joe has more than earned the right to be far, far out of his father's shadow, I say with love that the comparisons are well-deserved. This is a sensational collection, and very much worth your time.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,065 reviews69.5k followers
October 27, 2022
I wouldn't classify this as horror.


Short stories with a sometimes paranormal slant maybe, but not horror. They aren't scary, nor do I think they are meant to be. Just slice of life tales that star the misfits of the 20th century, and showcase them in odd and unusual stories.


Like most collections, I enjoyed some more than others. There were some that just flew completely over my head and some that I simply didn't see the point of at all.
Widow's Breakfast & Better Than Home were two stories that weren't at all supernatural and didn't seem to fit into this anthology, but Hill is an excellent storyteller, so you just kind of go with it.


I've seen quite a few people say that Pop Art was their least favorite, but it was one of the ones that I honestly liked the most. I felt for those characters. The Black Phone was an interesting take on a serial killer, and it made me want to watch the movie.
Best New Horror was awesome! I loved that he basically asks the reader to choose their own ending in that one. Quite a few of the stories allowed the reader to do just that, and I think that may have been what I liked most about this collection.
I also thought it was very cool that he hid another story (Scheherazade's Typewriter) in the acknowledgments.


Ok, so I had been saving this one to read in October. But now I honestly wish I had just gone ahead and read it beforehand. I feel like these are great stories but you should keep your GHOST expectations in check when it comes to 20th Century Ghosts.
And while these aren't particularly frightening, they are worth reading.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,311 reviews120k followers
October 30, 2021
Joe Hill - image from Daily Sundial

The crab apple does not fall far from the poisoned tree. While the sensibility is his own, it is eminently clear that Joe Hill has been gifted with DNA predisposed to horror greatness.

Before Heart-Shaped Box, Hill wrote short stories. He still does.

I was immediately taken with his ability to draw the reader in. For most of the stories here, I quickly felt that I could settle back in my chair and let Hill lead me wherever he wanted. He engages quickly and strongly. He is having a lot of fun here with standard horror fare. Best New Horror looks at both the world of small magazine/journal publishing and Hollywood movie clichés. Movies come to the fore again in 20th Century Ghost, in which a specter appears in an old movie house to select patrons. There’s no place like home. I was less impressed with Pop Art, although I admire its daring. The narrator is a boy with an inflatable friend and even in a book of ghost stories it was too allegorical to allow any emotional engagement. You Will Hear the Locust Sing takes a Kafkaesque look at social ostracism and adolescent rage with a dose of apocalyptic religiosity. Abraham’s Boys brings Van Helsing to America, wonders how he might be welcomed in the New World, and what sort of father he might be. Better Than Home looks at a Billy Martin sort of volcanic baseball manager. The Cape offers a nice twist on wish fulfillment. Voluntary Commitment is the story here that most makes one recall Hill’s father. Adolescent boys, danger, fear, and magic. Hill stretches a bit in defining what constitutes a ghost story. Some, frankly, don’t qualify. But that is a quibble. This is a collection of mostly interesting tales, well told. I am eager to read more of Hill’s work. He is a very bright light on the horror scene. I have read a fair bit of Hill's subsequent work, and he has livd up to the expectations.

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Instagram and Tumblr pages

Other Joe Hill books I have reviewed:
-----2019 - Full Throttle
-----2017 - Strange Weather
-----2016 - The Fireman
-----2013 - NOS4A2
-----2007 - Heart-Shaped Box

reviews of some books by his dad
-----2020 - If It Bleeds
-----2019 - The Institute
-----2014 - Revival
-----2014 - Mr. Mercedes
-----2013 - Doctor Sleep
-----2009 - Under the Dome
-----2008 - Duma Key
-----2006 - Lisey's Story
-----1977 - The Shining
Profile Image for Gianfranco Mancini.
2,210 reviews794 followers
October 3, 2022

Black Phone, originariamente pubblicato come 20th Century Ghosts, semplicemente Ghosts nell’edizione tradotta in italiano dalla Sperling & Kupfer nel 2009, è un'antologia più che discreta, che raccoglie alcune tra le migliori e più originali storie brevi scritte da Joe Hill, degno figlio di Stephen King, agli inizi della sua carriera.
La maggior parte delle storie sono, come potete ben immaginare, storie dell’orrore, che oscillano tra il blando ed il veramente terrificante, ma che comunque riescono quasi sempre nel raccontare i loro personaggi, e far interessare ad essi, con atmosfere che a volte ricordano non poco lo stile dell’illustre padre dell’autore, ma pur sempre mantenendo un tocco unico e personale.

Giudizio complessivo: 3.75

«Non trova anche lei che il racconto sia un esempio notevole di narrativa americana?» chiese Noonan.
«Sì. Sono d'accordo.»
«Non so come reagirà Kilrue quando saprà che vuole inserire il suo racconto nell'antologia, ma per quanto mi riguarda sono entusiasta. Spero di non averla spaventata troppo parlandole di lui.»
Carroll sorrise. «Non mi spavento facilmente.»

Best New Horror ☆☆☆☆☆

Ormai stufo marcio di leggere storie mediocri da inserire nell’antologia annuale America's Best New Horror di cui è curatore, Eddie Carroll incappa quasi per caso in un racconto talmente interessante, brutale come non ne aveva mai letti, da meritarsi un posto nell’edizione di quest’anno.
Eddie parte così alla ricerca dell’autore, non sapendo che questa potrebbe costargli molto più cara del previsto.

Una splendida lettera d’amore verso Non aprite quella porta che mi ha fatto inorridire restando incollato a leggere fino all’ultima delirante e raccapricciante pagina.

Alec tornò a guardare la ragazza che adesso era sprofondata nella poltrona. Teneva la testa appoggiata sulla spalla sinistra.
Le gambe divaricate in modo osceno. Aveva le narici e la bocca dalle labbra sottili coperte da una ragnatela di rivoli di sangue secco. Gli occhi rovesciati all'indietro che mostravano il bianco.
In grembo, un cartone di pop-corn capovolto.

Un fantasma del Ventesimo Secolo ☆☆☆☆

Imogene è giovane e bella e bacia come una star di quei film che conosce a menadito e che vede e rivede ogni giorno nel Rosebud Theater a lei tanto caro.
E resterà così per sempre, perché Imogene è morta nel 1945 e da allora attende un bacio mai arrivato nel buio del cinema.

Una gran bella storia d’amore e fantasmi, delicata, romantica ed inquietante.

Se il tuo migliore amico è brutto - e voglio dire orribile, deforme - non puoi prenderlo in giro proprio su questo. In un'amicizia, soprattutto tra due ragazzini, è permesso provocare una determinata quantità di dolore. Anzi, è quasi obbligatorio. Ma non si possono assolutamente infliggere ferite gravi; non bisogna mai, in nessun caso, aprire ferite che possono trasformarsi in cicatrici permanenti.

Pop Art ☆☆☆☆

Arthur Roth è un ragazzino solitario con il dono di attirare sciagure su di sé.
Non è davvero facile farsi delle amicizie quando sei l’unico ragazzo gonfiabile del paese.

Racconto più che originale ma decisamente un po’ troppo weird e bizarro per i miei gusti.
Nonostante tutto il finale è davvero notevole ed una lacrimuccia mi è scappata.

La porta si spalancò. Francis arretrò staccando dal pavimento le prime due zampe anteriori. Le sue mandibole emisero un veloce ticchettio simile al battito rapido dei tasti di una macchina da scrivere manuale. Buddy indugiò sulla soglia, una mano ancora sul pomello della porta. Il suo sguardo si posò sulla sagoma accovacciata di ciò in cui si era trasformato suo figlio.

Il canto della locusta ☆☆☆

Francis é infelice, una volta era umano ma ora non lo è più.
Perché Francis si é trasformato in una locusta di quasi due metri é mezzo.
E tutta Calliphora tremerà quando alla fine udirà il suo canto, il canto della locusta.

Un disgustoso incubo kafkiano che omaggia i b-movie di mostri in bianco e nero degli anni ‘50.
Non male, ma se avete paura degli insetti potrebbe rivelarsi essere fin troppo disturbante.

Raddrizzò il tavolino e stava cominciando a raccogliere i libri, quando Rudy chiese: «Tu credi ai vampiri, Max?»
Rudy era in ginocchio davanti a un ottomano che si trovava dall'altra parte dello studio. Si era chinato per recuperare alcuni fogli che erano caduti lì, ma poi la sua attenzione era stata catturata dalla borsa da dottore nascosta sotto il mobile. Rudy toccò il rosario annodato attorno ai manici.

I ragazzi Van Helsing ☆☆☆☆

Max e Rudolph sono i due figli del più famoso cacciatore di vampiri di tutti i tempi ed è finalmente venuto per loro il momento di seguire le orme paterne, compiendo l’inevitabile ed irreversibile passo dall’innocenza verso la consapevolezza.
Un passo che prima o poi arriva per tutti nel corso della vita, e le cui conseguenze portano con sé un grosso peso, questa volta più di altre.
Perché Max e Rudolph stanno per scoprire chi fosse in realtà Abraham Van Helsing.
Un integerrimo uccisore di creature della notte, o un assassino dalla mente malata che vedeva semplicemente dei mostri nei volti delle sue vittime?

Un originale, differente ed a tratti disturbante, seguito apocrifo del romanzo di vampiri per eccellenza, con cui trascorrere una piacevole, o spiacevole a seconda dei punti di vista, oretta prima di dormire.
Probabilmente sono una persona sgradevole in fondo al cuore, ma il finale mi ha strappato un ghigno malefico dalla bocca.

Scruto il suo volto e, come in un fumetto, sento un formicolio di orrore. Un movimento impercettibile cattura la mia attenzione. Una mosca sta zampettando sul labbro superiore dell'uomo.
Il corpo della mosca scintilla come un lingotto di metallo unto.
Esita per un istante sull'angolo della bocca, poi ci striscia dentro e scompare, e l'uomo non si sveglia.

Meglio che a casa ☆☆☆ 1/2

Una toccante storia di autismo ed amore tra un padre e suo figlio, ma che a mio parere avrebbe necessitato di parecchie pagine in più, e che ho trovato quasi fuori posto in questa antologia.
Mezza stellina in più per il finale, che mi ha lasciato un vero e proprio groppo in gola.

Due mesi più tardi era scomparso un altro bambino, il 1° giugno. I giornali avevano soprannominato il responsabile delle
sparizioni il Rapitore di Galesburg, un nome che secondo Finney non faceva paura quanto quello di Jack lo Squartatore. Il rapitore aveva preso un terzo bambino il 1° ottobre, una giornata che profumava di foglie morte schiacciate per terra.

Black Phone ☆☆☆☆☆

Jack Finney ha tredici anni e si trova in grossi guai.
Da un paio di anni qualcuno porta via i ragazzi di Galesburg facendoli sparire per sempre, e adesso Jack rischia di fare la stessa fine.
Perché Jack si trova rinchiuso nel seminterrato dello psicopatico, un luogo macchiato dal sangue di una mezza dozzina di bambini uccisi, e presto verrà il suo turno.
Ma Jack non è da solo.
Con lui c’é un vecchio telefono, nero e senza linea ormai da anni, che tuttavia continua a squillare nel cuore della notte.
Perché all’altro capo dell’apparecchio, si possono ancora sentire le voci delle precedenti vittime dell’assassino di bambini, decise più che mai a far sì che quanto è successo a loro non si ripeta di nuovo.

Breve, intenso e disturbante, a mani basse uno dei migliori racconti contenuti in questa antologia, e non vedo l’ora di vedere prima o poi l’adattamento cinematografico uscito lo scorso anno.
La foto in copertina presa dal film, raffigurante Ethan Hawke nei panni del Rapitore, è semplicemente da brividi, e mi ha fatto comprare all’istante questo libro senza neanche guardarne prezzo e sinossi.

«Vado a cercare aiuto», disse e stava già per torcere il busto, pronto a voltarsi e correre via. Poteva raggiungere la 17K in un minuto e fermare una macchina di passaggio.
«No», disse lei, il tono della sua voce di colpo spaventato.
«Non andare. Ho paura. Non so dove sia andato. Potrebbe essere ancora qui vicino. Potrebbe essere andato solo a lavarsi.» Gettò un'occhiata colma di panico verso lo stagno.

Tra due basi ☆☆☆☆

Dopo un alterco con una collega, Wyatt viene licenziato dalla videoteca dove lavorava e si trova a vagabondare senza meta finché non incappa in una macchina ferma sul ciglio della strada.
Una macchina con all’interno una donna ed i suoi due figli, uno dei quali sta morendo dissanguato.
E la donna impugna un coltello che afferma di avere strappato al loro aggressore…

Quasi cinque stelle per questo racconto intenso e raccapricciante, ma alla fine mi é sembrato necessitasse di almeno un’altra ventina di pagine ed il finale mi ha lasciato davvero l’amaro in bocca.

La lunghezza dell'orlo di satin del mantello era appena sufficiente perché potessi legarmelo attorno al collo.
Restai seduto a lungo sul bordo della mia branda, appollaiato con i piedi sollevati, come un piccione su un davanzale, la coperta che scendeva poco oltre la metà della mia schiena. Il pavimento era trenta centimetri sotto di me, ma ai miei occhi sembravano dodici metri. Alla fine, mi lanciai.

Il mantello ☆☆☆

Dopo aver ritrovato il lacero mantello che indossava quando giocava ai supereroi da bambino, Eric scopre di riuscire realmente a volare.
Ma cosa può succedere quando a ricevere poteri sovrumani é un pericoloso sociopatico?
Sicuramente potete indovinare la risposta.

Questa rivisitazione di Joe Hill del mito del supereroe non è niente male davvero, e mi ha ricordato non poco L'Angelo del Male - Brightburn, divertente e disturbante film horror del 2019 che rivisita furbescamente in chiave horror le origini di Superman.
Purtroppo il racconto dura veramente troppo poco e lascia parecchie cose in sospeso, così prima o poi mi toccherà procurarmi le miniserie a fumetti della IDW basate su di esso per poterne sapere qualcosa in più sul Mantello ed il suo possessore.

«Questo non è del tutto esatto», disse Alinger. «Ogni contenitore è sigillato ermeticamente. Ciascun alambicco contiene il respiro di una persona in punto di morte. Possiedo la più grande collezione di ultimi respiri che esista al mondo, sono più di cento. Alcune di queste bottiglie contengono gli ultimi respiri di persone molto famose.»

L'ultimo respiro ☆☆☆

Venghino, siore e siori! Benvenuti nel Museo del Silenzio del Dr. Alinger, dove ogni vostro respiro potrebbe essere l’ultimo… ma non temete, non andrà perduto e lo conserveremo con cura.
Insieme a tutti gli altri.

Una premessa molto interessante per un racconto originale, macabro e raccapricciante, ma che si è rivelato essere davvero troppo, troppo, corto.
Finale fin troppo repentino e telefonato, comunque efficace, da pelle d’oca.

Il bosco fantasma ☆☆☆

Il racconto più breve dell’antologia, ed uno di quelli che mi sono piaciuti di meno, talmente breve che aggiungerne un estratto significherebbe spoilerare gran parte.
Quasi la premessa di una storia di fantasmi mai sviluppata e continuata, ma forse sono io che non l’ho capita fino in fondo.
Si legge in cinque minuti, ve ne basteranno altrettanti per dimenticarla.
Tre stelline di manica larga.

Lima Slim, a quanto pareva, in più di un'occasione non aveva esitato a sparare; una volta, aveva persino costretto alcuni uomini, minacciandoli con la pistola, a saltare giù da un vagone mentre il treno sfrecciava a ottanta chilometri all'ora. Lima Slim era famoso per le cose che aveva fatto. Famoso, quantomeno, tra i vagabondi.

La colazione della vedova ☆☆☆☆

Killian il vagabondo sta passando davvero un periodaccio, rimasto solo dopo la perdita del suo compagno di viaggio e migliore amico.
Il povero senzatetto gira per l’America in treno senza una meta, ma il luogo dove conducono le rotaie non è purtroppo sicuro per quelli come lui.

Per niente pauroso, comunque un piacevole racconto gotico di altri tempi, quasi una parabola sull’accettazione della perdita e la gioia del dare.
Non male davvero, ma con un pizzico di orrore avrebbe potuto essere memorabile, a mio avviso.
Tre stelle e mezzo arrotondate in eccesso, perché probabilmente ero dell’umore giusto quando l’ho letto e mi è piaciuto comunque parecchio.

Per la verità, Bobby aveva trovato abbastanza inquietante Tom Savini che, mentre lo truccava, continuava a studiare un libro fotografico di autopsie. Le persone ritratte in quelle foto - la carne devastata e a brandelli, i volti tragici - erano morte per davvero e non si sarebbero alzate in piedi più tardi per andare a prendere una tazza di caffè al buffet della troupe.

Bobby Conroy ritorna dal mondo dei morti ☆☆☆☆☆

Bobby Conroy ha trovato lavoro truccato da zombie come comparsa sul set di Dawn of the Dead, un film a basso costo scritto e diretto dal regista americano George Romero, destinato poi ad entrare nella storia della cinematografia mondiale, nonché nei sogni ed incubi di centinaia di appassionati spettatori incluso il sottoscritto.
Sul set, Bobby ritrova Harriet, sua vecchia fiamma del liceo ora sposata, a sua volta truccata da zombie insieme a suo figlio, anche loro intenti a lavorare come comparse per una manciata di dollari.

Potrebbe sembrare fuori posto in una antologia horror, ma questo racconto, una splendida storia d’amore e seconde possibilità, é un gran bell’omaggio a George Romero, si è rivelato essere quello che mi é piaciuto di più.
E le comparsate dello stesso Romero, di Tom Savini, e, a sorpresa, di Robin Williams tra i comprimari, sono state tra le più gustose ciliegine sulla torta di sempre.

Da applausi.

La più inquietante di tutte le maschere era appesa a una delle finestre. Era fatta di plastica deformata e trasparente e somigliava al volto di un uomo scolpito in una lastra di ghiaccio impossibilmente sottile. Era difficile scorgerla lì, davanti al vetro, e trasalii quando la vidi con la coda dell'occhio.

La maschera di mio padre ☆☆☆

Alla mamma di Jack piace raccontare storie e giocare.
Nel corso di una scampagnata decisa sul momento, presso la casa di famiglia vicino al lago, la mamma di Jack inizia a narrare una storia macabra per suo figlio e suo marito.
Una storia che Jack faticherà non poco a separare dalla vita reale.
Se mai ci riuscirà.

Un folle racconto su come travestimenti e giochi in famiglia possono influire sulla mente di un giovane tredicenne.
Bizzarro, surreale, onirico ed inquietante, a tratti quasi una versione da incubo di Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie, ma le domande rimaste senza risposta sono parecchie, e non sono davvero sicuro di averlo compreso fino in fondo.
Un’altra storia breve che, a mio parere, avrebbe funzionato meglio come racconto lungo.

Io avrei voluto setacciare subito la cantina per scoprire se ci fosse davvero un intruso, ma ogni volta che cercavo di parlare, mia madre mi lanciava un'occhiata severa e mi zittiva con un gesto della mano. Lei e Morris salirono al piano di sopra e io rimasi seduto al bancone della cucina a fissare irrequieto e angosciato la porta della cantina per quasi un'intera ora.

Ricovero volontario ☆☆☆☆

Morris, il fratello minore ed autistico di Nolan, è scappato dall’istituto dove viveva.
Nolan é convinto che la cosa potrebbe avere a che fare con la scomparsa di un vecchio amico d’infanzia, Eddie Nolan, avvenuta nel 1977 in una giornata d’Ottobre.
Perché Morris possiede il dono di costruire meravigliose costruzioni labirintiche con scatole di cartone ed ogni altra cosa che riesca a trovare, ma a volte ci si può perdere all’interno e finire in posti lontani.
Da cui non vi è ritorno.

Il racconto più lungo dell’antologia, nonché uno dei più fantasiosi e disturbanti, quasi un accenno di temi ed atmosfere che l’autore riprenderà poi successivamente in Locke & Key, capolavoro a fumetti trasposto in una più che godibile, ma decisamente non all’altezza dell’opera originale, serie televisiva in tre stagioni.

Godibile e toccante.

Il padre di Helena è appena morto da poco, quando lei comincia ad udire rumori provenienti dalla cantina.
E’ la vecchia macchina da scrivere che suo padre usava ogni giorno, e che, a quanto pare, ha ancora molto da raccontare…

Ringraziamenti - La macchina per scrivere di Sheherazade ☆☆☆

Attenzione a non saltare la postfazione con i ringraziamenti finali, l’autore si accomiata ringraziando i suoi lettori e regalando loro, inaspettatamente, una breve e piacevole storiella di fantasmi.

Profile Image for Ginger.
791 reviews378 followers
August 24, 2019
I really enjoyed this compilation of short stories by Joe Hill! They are not all horror so know that going in when you read this.

Overall, I would give this compliation 4 stars!

I've broken down all the short stories below and what I liked about them. Some were "okay" and not a favorite but the writing was still good.
Joe Hill has a fantastic imagination and his writing is top notch in my books!

Best New Horror – 5 stars!
This was one of my favorite short stories. I loved the take on the producer trying to find the new horror writer and how it all goes downhill at the end.

20th Century Ghost – 4 stars
Eerie and a bit romantic. Loved the setting of an old movie theater!

Pop Art – 2.5 stars
Still a bit confused by the balloon people, but the ending was a nice touch.

You Will Hear the Locust Sing - 3.5 stars
It was gross and felt like a creature feature. I enjoyed this one for what it was!

Abraham’s Boys - 5 stars!
I loved this one and it was a favorite! It was a nice, new take on Abraham Van Helsing and vampires.

Better Than Home - 2 stars
Ehh…I didn’t see the point in this one for the compilation. Maybe looking through the eyes of someone who sees the world differently? I thought the kid might be autistic.

The Black Phone - 3.5 stars
It had a John Wayne Gacy feel to the book and I was happy with the end!

In the Rundown - 2 stars
The writing was good but wasn’t great. It just felt unfinished. Ehh…

The Cape - 3 stars
I enjoyed the magical realism to this story.

Last Breath - 4 stars
Creepy and great idea to bottle the last breath of someone when they die! I liked the idea of this one.

Dead-Wood - 2.5 stars
I would give this a higher rating if it was longer. I just wanted more from this one! What a cool start and concept though.

The Widow’s Breakfast - 3.5 stars
I liked how this one ended. It was a bit open and creepy. You’re not quite sure what will happen to Killian with the girls.

Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead - 3 stars
Not a bad short story about being an extra in a movie and finding lost connections again.

My Father’s Mask - 3.5 stars
I felt like I was on acid reading this. I’m not sure what the playing cards theme was about or all the masks. Very weird but still creepy and I liked it!

Voluntary Committal - 4 stars
I really liked this one about an autistic brother and the magical worlds he built from his mind. He would build buildings or forts from boxes, dominos or Dixie cups.
It was a very magical story about the loss of innocence and seeing the world through the eyes of someone who looks at it in a different way.
Profile Image for Eloy Cryptkeeper.
296 reviews197 followers
April 2, 2021
"Es curioso, ¿no? Que alguien tuviera que inventarse el cero.
Porque no resulta obvio que nada pueda ser algo. Ese algo que no puede medirse ni verse puede sin embargo existir y significar algo. Si te paras a pensarlo, es lo mismo que pasa con el alma(...)
La energía no se destruye, sólo se transforma.
Espero que sea verdad. Estaría muy bien saber que vas a seguir existiendo después de morir, aunque sea transformado en algo completamente distinto a lo que has sido"

Si bien se "vende" el libro con la premisa de contar con relatos terroríficos,hay que decir que en verdad no es algo muy predominante. En realidad hay algunos relatos inquietantes, tintes misteriosos y sobrenaturales, se da lugar a jugar con la ciencia ficción. Abunda el drama y la nostalgia, acompañado con momentos de humor, bastantes metáforas y muchas referencias a la cultura pop, literatura y cine.
En mi opinión la receta funciona muy bien Y hay algunos puntos muy altos, relatos realmente muy buenos y originales.
"fantasmas" parecería ser un concepto, ya que no solamente se toca el tema de los fantasmas propiamente dicho. si no que también, lo que podrían ser fantasmas del pasado, de una mente perturbada, de la nostalgia, de hechos traumáticos, de amores perdidos.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,540 reviews9,968 followers
August 19, 2019
Read with some friends over at Horror Aficionados. I have to say I was expecting some true horror stores but I wasn’t feeling half of them. I’m giving it 3 stars for the ones I did like though.

BEST NEW HORRORwas the creepiest one and I loved it!

The other ones I liked were

Pop Art
You Will Hear The Locust Sing (was okay)
The Black Phone
Last Breath

And the added Typewriter store in the ad section

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Mir.
4,869 reviews5,036 followers
January 10, 2017
"Best New Horror" - Fun concept and well executed for most of the story, but my interest tanked when the editor finally tracks down the author. Maybe I was supposed to laugh at the cliche-ness? 4 stars for the 1st half, 2 for the second = 3

"20th Century Ghosts" - There was a delicacy to this haunted movie theater story that I appreciated, although I felt it ran too long (or rather, too wordy) for what it was. 3 stars

"Dead-wood" - Instances of ghostly trees. You know, Joe, it would be okay to write non-fiction if you felt like it. You don't have to force there to be a story. 3 stars

"Widow's Breakfast" - solid descriptive story about a poor young hobo. Not horror, no reason for the inclusion of the slightly-creepy daughters that I could see, weak last line. 3 stars

Okay, so having read 4 stories and 3-starred all, I feel like I don't need to read the remainder. I didn't dislike any of them, but I did not particularly enjoy them, either. I feel like this collection is not-onerous task rather than a pleasure, and I have better things to read.
Profile Image for Emily Coffee and Commentary.
475 reviews157 followers
September 2, 2022
An eerie and varied collection of tales about the ghosts, literal and metaphorical, that plague us. Using sarcasm and shock value, Joe Hill explores the things that keep us up at night: intrusive thoughts, paranormal entities, and, possibly most frightening, the everyday predators that lurk around us. A deep and well rounded group of stories.
Profile Image for Char.
1,682 reviews1,557 followers
March 26, 2017
4.5 stars!

My favorite stories were:

Pop Art
20th Century Ghost
Better Than Home
My Father's Mask
Voluntary Committal

My thought on this collection cannot possibly make a dent in all of reviews already written about this book. Suffice it to say: I loved it and it gets my highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Zain.
1,463 reviews154 followers
February 19, 2023
The book has an old fashioned look and I like that.

What I also like is the title. It’s also old school.

The spookiness is okay, but I think I was expecting more from this author.

You know what I mean.

Three stars! 💫💫💫
Profile Image for Kelli.
851 reviews403 followers
May 6, 2016
Joe Hill makes me feel like I'm seven again. More specifically, I'm seven and he is the nine-year-old kid down the street hanging out with me in my tree fort telling me scary stories and urban legends that he swears are true. His voice is hushed, as if he is letting me in on a little known secret and I'm not quite sure whether to believe him but I'm mesmerized and a little afraid.

Joe Hill gets the underdog and the misunderstood. He also writes childhood well, but it is when writing that mislabeled person that he truly shines. One story called Pop Art was not scary in the traditional sense. It was its own kind of brilliant, somehow age-old and refreshingly new.

This short story collection is quite good. I listened to the audio and the narrator is perfect, which adds an important element in this genre. As with any collection of shorts, I liked some more than others but I give this extra credit for variety and interesting endings. 3.75 stars.
Profile Image for Crystal.
129 reviews28 followers
January 22, 2022
I did it
I finished
the only story I couldn't make it through was the cockroach one.
I much prefer his full length novels
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,256 reviews2,302 followers
August 14, 2017
When I read NOS4A2, I had pegged Joe Hill as a horror writer of the calibre of his celebrated father. When I started this book, I expected much of the same fare: however, I was pleasantly surprised. “20th Century Ghosts” is less about ghosts than other sorts of boogeymen: more subtle, more scary, and all definitely weird.

It starts off with a traditional story (“Best New Horror”) about a horror anthology editor trapped in something like one of his own tales: despite the story-within-the-story structure of the first part, this tale becomes highly predictable towards the end and falls rather flat. In fact, all the stories using familiar tropes in this collection (“The Black Phone” about a serial killer, and the novella “Voluntary Committal” about an idiot savant and tunnels to distant dimensions) suffer from predictability. Joe Hill comes into his own, I think, when he throws away the manual and drifts off into the territory of the weird.

Take “Pop Art”, a story of an inflatable boy – no, not a toy but a living being born to flesh and blood parents, in an alternate universe where such things are possible: or “My Father’s Mask”, where the goofy family game played by a family slowly slides into reality: or “The Cape”, where the superhero myth takes a violent twist. None of these can be called horror, but we are definitely in the land of Kafka. Speaking of whom, there is a sort of tribute to one of his all-time great stories, The Metamorphosis – in “You Will Hear the Locust Sing”, a youngster in the same dilemma as Greg Samsa decides to take his life in hands, with true American fortitude.

The question “what happened after Count Dracula was defeated?” is answered in “Abraham’s Boys”, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea to see this negative take on a classic of the horror genre. I found it powerful, however – especially how the author depicts the tortured world of the Van Helsing children with such cruel clarity. Indeed, the disturbed and often terrifying world of misfit children and broken homes is a common theme in this collection – it permeates eight of the sixteen stories. Is it so bad in America now, one wonders.

There are a stories without any element of horror (“Better Than Home”, “The Widow’s Breakfast”, “Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead”) which are still unsettling because of the human misery left unsaid underneath the bland narration. This is one thing that Joe Hill does beautifully; his prose is sometimes so prosaic and unemotional, almost Hemingway-esque, still it conveys a depth of feeling.

Among all these stories, the title story stands out as the only one where a traditional ghost appears. But there is nothing frightening about this ghost – in fact, she is rather endearing and sexy. Through her, the author manages to convey what the magic of movies was before television forced itself into our living rooms.

If you are a connoisseur of the unconventional, a fan of the disturbing and likes your literature to keep you awake than put you to sleep, this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Lisa.
43 reviews7 followers
December 18, 2008
This was the most awful grueling book to get through. The stories had great starts (some of them anyways) but then just ended with no warning, and not even at a place that really made much sense. Some of these stories I think could have made an excellent book on their own had they been fully completed. It was very difficult to make my way through these stories. I kept hoping they would get better or I'd find one really great story in the mess. Some really grabbed my interest in the begining but then just went dead...like a dud firecracker. Quite disappointed.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,158 reviews312 followers
February 18, 2023
4.5 stars for the collection as a whole

As always, I find Hill's work compulsively readable and eminently enjoyable. My favourites here are probably "Better than Home" and "Voluntary Committal," followed closely by "Abraham's Boys" and "The Cape." But there's nothing bad or weak in here, just varying degrees of good to excellent.

Best New Horror (4/5) One of those stories that isn't creepy until it is, and the obviousness makes it more so rather than less. I love endings where the reader's mind keeps spinning after the last word and fills in the blank space on the final page.

20th Century Ghost (4/5) A wistful ghost story, with elements of nostalgia for film and movie houses. I kept thinking about my own history of growing up with film, and transitions such as going from 70mm to digital. The sound of film in a projector and the hot and dusty smell of the light, those have been replaced by digital silence and cool LED. Not a bad thing, just different; sensory elements removed from the experience.

Pop Art (4/5) A fantastical and emotive story that examines the transformative power of friendship.

In a friendship, especially in a friendship between two young boys, you are allowed to inflict a certain amount of pain. This is even expected. But you must cause no serious injury; you must never, under any circumstances, leave wounds that will result in permanent scars.

You Will Hear the Locust Sing (4/5) The first few lines set a vivid stage for the body horror to come, and it just keeps on going:

Francis Kay woke from dreams that were not uneasy, but exultant, and found himself an insect. He was not surprised, had thought this might happen. Or not thought: hoped, fantasized, and if not for this precise thing, then something like it.

Sooooo creepy!

Abraham's Boys (4.5/5) Ever wonder what kind of parent Abraham Van Helsing made after taking up with Mina? Pretty much what you would expect, and makes you wonder who is the actual monster hunter of the family?

Better Than Home (5/5) Comical, sad, happy, vivid, and everything else a slice of life is. I loved this story and kept reading sections out loud to my mom, who was sitting next to me with her own book. It doesn't "go" anywhere, it just is what it is.

The Black Phone (4/5) True horror from start to finish. Honestly, though, I'm not good with abduction stories. They freak me out. There's a reason I've never read the book or watched the film Room.

In the Rundown (3/5) The story had a good start but needed a final turn for a truly devastating finish to be implied. It stopped just short of making the outcome inevitable, which lessened the impact a bit.

The Cape (4.5/5) Great! You think it's a story about a little bit of the fantastic in the life of an otherwise ordinary non-achiever. It is, but it's got a horror element that appears seemingly out of nowhere.

Last Breath (4/5) This story about the Museum of Silence and its unique collection reminded me of the Black Museum from Season 4, Episode 6 of Black Mirror. The curator here, however, seemed much more refined.

Dead-Wood (3/5) Less a story and more a bit of thoughtful musing.

The roots of a shattered tree still drink for months after death, so used to the habit of life they can't give it up. Something that doesn't know it's alive obviously can't be expected to know when it's dead.

The Widow's Breakfast (3.5/5) Descriptive and sad; nicely written but the end was a bit too abrupt. It would have been excellent for me if only the end had just been pushed a bit.

Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead (3/5 stars) While working as extras on George Romero's classic, "Night of the Living Dead," two former high school flames experience sad and slightly angry feelings of nostalgia about their road not taken together. This was OK, but I didn't love it.

My Father's Mask (4.5/5) One of  those stories where I'm not completely sure what happened, but I know I loved it. There is an undercurrent of dreamlike dread and unease that runs throughout and never really resolves.

Voluntary Committal (5/5) My favourite kind of story, and one in which both Joe Hill and Stephen King excel. A story of the ordinary, emotional life of a person who finds themselves confronted unexpectedly with the slightly fantastical.  There's no real way of knowing whether the event will ultimately result in horror or happiness except keep moving through it to the end.

How exciting it is to hold a box and not be sure what's in it. What it might contain. A whole world might be closed in there. Who could tell from the outside? The featureless outside.

Bonus Story: Scheherazade's Typewriter If you read the acknowledgments at the end of this collection, you will come across a small gift left by Hill for the dedicated and persistent reader, a meta story not listed in the Table of Contents.
Profile Image for Ron.
394 reviews97 followers
May 22, 2016
More often than not, Joe Hill characterizes the child’s life within these stories. I think that’s where our imaginations and fears are strongest, and when things scare us the most. When we are grown, most of that is gone…until we pick up a certain book. Shit, I love the way Hill writes. It is so utterly readable. He makes me believe in ghosts and the supernatural, but even more in the power of a simple story. I say that because not even half of the stories included here are meant to be frightening. Some are just about people, like you and me. So, I have no qualms in giving 5 stars to 20th Century Ghosts. There were a few lesser-than-great short stories in here, but others were like shining lights, out of the park homeruns. Following is a short take on each:

Best New Horror - Includes a story within the story called the Buttonboy, written by a truly creepy amateur writer named Kilrue, whose inspiration is very real. In this one, the getting there may be better than the finish.
20th Century Ghost - Very much a character-driven piece about a young woman who haunts the Rosebud theatre, and Alec Sheldon the man who spends his life there because of it. Not meant to be frightening, although I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. A satisfying climax.
Pop Art - Such a wildly different kind of story. I didn’t know at first if it was all in the kid’s head, or some sort of magical realism. I grew to care and wanted to defend this boy made of plastic and air. Such good stuff with a lesson for life. I wanted to effing cry. Is this the best of the bunch? A++++
You Will Hear the Locust Sing - An Ode to Franz Kafka and The Metamorphosis, but far darker and insidious. Didn’t think I would like it, but I surely did.
Abraham’s Boys - Is their father a vampire hunter, or simply an abusive man who found an excuse to kill? A different take on a vampire tale. One that I enjoyed, but the story could have been stretched with a few more pages. I want to know more.
Better Than Home - Some of this is summed up in the title. It’s a lovely, short analogy for one dad’s relationship with his boy. I had to think a bit about this one at the end. Baseball, fathers. Then it hit me. Gosh this was exceptional and beautifully understated.
The Black Phone - A boy is abducted by the fat man with the black balloons. Just the right amount of tension and paranormal in here. I am always more scared for the young and innocent characters. Also, looking back on childhood, I remember the belief in the supernatural that vanishes with age.
In the Rundown - The tables are turned in a very different sort of way for a young guy who doesn’t realize he’s judgmental a bully. I wasn’t sure about the meaning, or the point. Maybe there isn’t one for some situations.
The Cape - Did the lucky blanket that became his cape make this boy fly? Now an adult, does any of that child’s wonder remain in Eric’s life? What I thought would be an introspective piece became the unexpected. Has a wow ending that had my mouth hanging open!
Last Breath - Enter a museum that collects the last breaths sounds (or silences) people make. High creep factor. Short and not sweet.
Dead-Wood - The runt of the litter.
A Widow’s Breakfast - A straight tale with a hint of darkness, but really more literature than horror. I’ll call it a parable. A mourning vagrant (really sounds like too harsh a word) finds the gift
Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead - Bobby bumps into his high school flame as zombie-extras on a film shoot at the local mall. Harriet is now married and Bobby was the “most-likely-to-succeed” bound for Hollywood. Things don’t always work out as we hope. Hill writes about life in so many different ways. Simple yet deep. “Everyone wants a do-over”
My Father’s Mask - Super weird tale told from the viewpoint of a 13-year old with parents I could not fathom. Not without its moments of realness.
Voluntary Commital - The longest of the book at 50 pages, and in some ways it is the most disturbing. Nolan tells the story of his younger, autistic brother Morris, his friend Eddie, and how they both went missing. It makes believe that holes can be made that lead to somewhere else. A place from where there is no return. Good from start to finish, and one of the best in this collection. If I had to judge, I’d give top honors to Pop Art and Better than Home, but this is almost too close to call.

PS. Do not skip the acknowledgements.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,107 followers
October 24, 2019
Oddly enough, this collection was something of a hit or miss with me. When the stories hit, they hit hard and wonderfully and had me chortling with glee. Best Horror Story was easily my favorite. I really liked a number of the others, as well.

What really got me, though, were the stories that, while emotionally engaging and had me chomping at the bit for more, just STOPPED. Anyone who has read these particular stories will know what I mean. Some of the best ended right where we should have gotten a full blow-by-blow and it was FINE in some cases. In others, it was like... wtf? What kind of end is that? Is he going to get blamed for a murder he didn't commit or not? Huh? lol

All in all, the writing is solid as hell and fun and while the endings come and go, the beginnings and middles are all pretty much tops. :) I had fun, regardless.
Profile Image for Jim Ef.
327 reviews65 followers
August 20, 2022
People say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In this case, the apple fell very near indeed, but it got on the ground, grew its own roots and now it stands a proud tree. As you can imagine that is quite an achievement, when the tree that you fell from is named Stephen King.

Before I write my thoughts on this book, I need to tell some very important things. First that not all the stories on this collection, are horror stories. Sure if you must put it in only one category, that would be the one, but I find that unfair. Horror stories make you scared and give you a sense of fear. Those are by far not the only feelings you will get while reading this book. Secondly, here we have a collection of short stories, so they have the pros and cons of short stories. If you are not a fan, it would be better for you to let this one go.

I had to choose only three stories to talk about, I would love to share my thoughts of all of them, but it would become quite a big review, not that is a short one now or that someone actually gives a damn about my thoughts.

1.Best new horror: A horror magazine publisher reads for a first time in many years an original story. The story is so good but he can’t find the author, so he becomes kind of obsessed. His search finally pays off... although he wish it wouldn’t. The plot is not anything new and the reason I ( and dare I say many people ) don’t enjoy most of the horror fiction (movies or books), is that the genre struggles from originality. Everything is too darn predictable. We know what is going to happen before it does. Imagine how good someone must be to turn this problem into their own favor. Joe Hill is that good.
He knows what you are expecting and he drags you there, even when you don’t wanna go anymore, he is still taking you there. It’s like walking on a dark street on a windy night. You know that you are alone, you know that the sounds you hear are coming from the wind. You shouldn’t be scared…. You shouldn’t, but you are.

2.Pop Art: Right after I finished Pop Art I closed the book. It took me 5 minutes to do something else, to think anything else. I was upset, sad and…and i can’t even describe what was I feeling. Unlike “Best new horror” this is original. Here is the first line of the story “My best friend when I was twelve was inflatable” I thought that this is kind of ridiculous. It took mr.Hill 25 pages to make go from that to what I previously described. This story is a punch right in the heart.
(6 stars)

3.Voluntary Committal: The last story in this book and what a way to end it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you are a kid or an adult. You might know something but you can’t say anything. If you are a kid it’s your imagination, if you are an adult you are crazy. I don’t want to say much about this unique story, so I’ll keep it short. We learn what we learn from Nolan (the narrator) who shortly after his younger brother Morris went missing, got some forgotten memories back. Memories about Eddie, his childhood friend who was last seen back in 1977. He is not sure if the two stories are somehow connected, but even if he was, he couldn’t say anything.

It was very hard to choose those three stories so here are the ratings for the rest.

20th Century Ghost 7.0/10
You Will Hear The Locust Sing 7.4/10 (Kafka was clearly an inspiration for this one)
"Abraham's Boys" 7.1/10
Better Than Home 7.7/10
The Black Phone 8.4/10
In The Rundown 8.1/10
The Cape 7.2/10
Last Breath 7.9/10
"Dead-Wood" 5.9/10 (it's only 1 page)
"The Widow's Breakfast" 6.9/10
My Father's Mask 7.9/10

All I have left to say is, Have a great reading guys.
Profile Image for Paul O’Neill.
Author 3 books185 followers
December 9, 2018
A fantastic collection of stories, tightly written (like a certain family member). Short stories aren’t usually my thing but between this and his more recent collection of four novellas, Strange Weather, Joe Hill has maybe changed my mind.

Some stories were better than others but there wasn’t a single dudd in this collection. My favourites were Pop Art (boy makes friends with Art, a balloon), Better Than Home (a nice Father-Son story) and the longer story at the end of the book, Voluntary Commital (em... can’t really describe without spoiling). I’d go as far to say that Pop Art is one of the best things I’ve read all year and is up there with Loaded which is one of Hill’s stories in Strange Weather.

Most of these stories are horror stories, although they are not blunt but rather subtle and scary as hell. I think I read the scariest thing ever in Best New Horror:
‘He made holes in my eyes and he said after he did it he saw my soul rush out. He said it made a sound like when you blow on an empty Coke bottle, real pretty. Then he put these over my eyes to keep my life trapped inside.’ As he speaks, Jim touches the smiley-face buttons. ‘He wants to see how long I can live without a soul inside me.’

Although mostly horror, Hill has some nicer stories in this collection and all of the stories are about the people in them and not just an excuse for some horror porn like other collections.

You get an astronaut’s life whether you want it or not. Leave it all behind for a world you know nothing about. That’s just the deal.

A worthwhile read from one of my favourite authors.
Profile Image for Yeferzon Zapata.
111 reviews23 followers
March 5, 2022
No me ha gustado para nada esta recopilación de relatos. Para mí tiene tres problemas:
1. El autor en algunos relatos trata de llevar un concepto hasta al final forzando mucho la trama.
2. Son relatos bastante planos, no hubo algo que me hiciera sentir que la historia tomaba un rumbo interesante, sino que por el contrario, me sentía en una monotonía interminable.
3. La mayoría de los relatos tienen un final bastante abierto que no les favorece para nada.
No puedo decir que estén mal escritos, pero estoy seguro que al pasar los días no recordaré ni de qué trata cada uno de los 16 relatos que compone esta antología.
Profile Image for Sandi.
510 reviews279 followers
September 27, 2008
Short story collections can be hit or miss. Some stories may be wonderful, others may be clunkers. Every story in “20th Century Ghosts” is wonderful, some are even superlative. While Hill is a horror writer, not all of the stories in this book are horror. And, some of the ones that deal with the typical subjects of horror are not horrific. To me, the best stories in this collection are:

“20th Century Ghost”, a touching story about a haunted movie theater.

“Abraham’s Boys”, a tale about teen-age rebellion in unusual circumstances.

“Better than Home”, a sweet story told from the perspective of the autistic son of a baseball coach. It really tugged at my heart.

“My Father’s Mask”, a very creepy warped, fairytale-like story that left me with the shivers.

“Voluntary Committal”, an indescribable fantasy/horror story about brotherly love.

Be sure to read the acknowledgments at the end. Hill throws in a terrific little story as an encore.

I have to admit that I am now a Joe Hill fan and will be on the lookout for his next book. His work isn’t formulaic; and, as some of his short stories prove, he leans more towards psychological horror than blood & gore. His work is rich and complex. His characters are multidimensional and realistic. I highly recommend Joe Hill’s work for anyone who wants a good read.

Profile Image for Tim.
2,188 reviews213 followers
June 13, 2018
The title seems false and the stories are lame. 0 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Trish.
2,021 reviews3,438 followers
October 23, 2019
This is my first ever Joe Hill book. Well, it is a collection of short stories to be exact.

For the single titles of the stories, please refer to my status updates, where you can also see the individual ratings.
As you can see, not every story was a winner for me but the majority was great. And among those with a low(er) rating, I noticed that the writing itself was always of high quality. One simply didn't belong in a horror collection in my opinion and one or two other(s) seemed too short, like a joke ending without the punch line.

What was noticable in a number of stories was the subtlety with which the author delivered the supernatural kick to the reader's face. Like in the bonus story where I'm sure many a reader will have to go back to read one word at least twice before realizing what has been said. That is awesome! :D
And some stories showed clearly that this is Stephen King's son - the characterization of a few people here was fantastic in an infuriating sort of way that I only know from the King of Horror. *lol*

Great atmosphere, distinct characters in often very creepy situations ... (almost) perfect Spooktober read.
Profile Image for Kostas Papadatos.
51 reviews21 followers
February 19, 2018
Το βιβλίο είχε τα πάνω του και τα κάτω του. Κάπου στη μέση η βαθμολογία.
Profile Image for Nikoleta.
695 reviews274 followers
November 14, 2017
Τα διηγήματα του Hill σίγουρα δεν τα κατατάσσω σε αυτά του κλασικού τρόμου.
Είναι γραμμένα από την οπτική γωνία ενός συγκεκριμένου ήρωα, κάθε φορά. Μέχρι πριν το τέλος, συνήθως ,δεν γίνεται τίποτα. Παρακολουθούμε την καθημερινότητα του ήρωα και περιμένουμε να γίνει κάτι. Αυτό το κάτι το οποίο συμβαίνει και κορυφώνει το κάθε διήγημα, δεν μας προκαλεί αγωνία, φόβο κ.λ.π. αλλά στην δική μου περίπτωση σοκ, ξάφνιασμα και μια δυσάρεστη αίσθηση…
Δεν πέρασα καλά, στον τρόμο ψάχνω πάντα την ανατριχίλα, εδώ βίωσα μια μουντίλα, μελαγχολία και ένα μίζερο αίσθημα, που κάθε φορά που έκλεινα μια ακόμη ιστορία, για να μου περάσει, έτρωγα από μία σοκολάτα.
Το αποτέλεσμα έπειτα από κάθε τέλος, ένα ξαφνιασμένο ύφος αγελάδας, το ερωτηματικό «τι διάβασα μόλις τώρα;» και προφανώς 1-2 κιλά παραπάνω… (ευτυχώς που δεν είναι καλοκαίρι).
Από την άλλη πλευρά, να πω ότι ο τύπος ξέρει να γράφει. Προφανώς και δεν ήθελε να μου μεταδώσει ανατριχίλα, προφανώς και στοχεύει στο σοκ! Αυτά τα κατάφερε 100%. Σε πηγαίνει βόλτα με βαρκούλα σε γαλήνια θαλασσίτσα και εκεί που γλαρώνεις αμέριμνα, σου αναποδογυρίζει την βάρκα.
Άτιμε Hill… έχεις πολλά θέματα! Και καλά κάνεις! Keep going!
Profile Image for Franco  Santos.
484 reviews1,360 followers
May 29, 2016
Todos tenemos distintos silencios. ¿Acaso su marido tiene el mismo silencio cuando está contento que cuando está enfadado? Sus oídos son capaces de discernir entre clases específicas de nada.

Buenos relatos, en general. Hay algunos que son extraordinarios, como La ley de gravedad, Madera muerta y Reclusión voluntaria. Otros, muy buenos: Último aliento, La capa y Oirás cantar a la langosta. Los demás son regulares y tiene varios que no lograron atraparme. Pero los que más me gustaron me dejaron cicatrices; no los voy a olvidar fácilmente. Son excelentes.

Desde fantasmas hasta una amistad mágica, Joe Hill me llevó de recorrido por unos relatos maduros, muy bien escritos, que son como tienen que ser: besos fríos que lentifican la corriente sanguínea. Son pequeñas obras que te dan tanto como lo que te sacan.

Es obvio que lo recomiendo. Los mejores cuentos hacen valer la pena a todo el libro. Y una aclaración: no se esperen solo terror; hay para reir, llorar y gritar.
Profile Image for Mau (Maponto Lee).
297 reviews86 followers
August 1, 2022
En esta, la primera colección de historias cortas de Joe Hill, tanto el horror como la belleza abundan en 16 variados cuentos. Cabe recordar que Joe Hill es un seudónimo de Joe Hillstrom King, hijo de Stephen King, quien eligió escribir bajo un seudónimo por un deseo de tener éxito por sus propios méritos.

Pero no todo en esta colección es terror: algunos se acercan más a la fantasía, mientras que otros se contentan con explorar una idea interesante. De hecho, algunas de estas historias podrían llamarse "literarias" o de “ficción general”. Si los elementos de lo fantástico (es decir, elementos que no surgen de la realidad sino de la fantasía, la ciencia ficción o el terror) no son necesarios para una historia, Hill no los agrega. Este tipo de moderación por sí sola lo marca como escritor un paso por encima de la mediocridad común y corriente.

Más digno es que cada historia es una lectura interesante, aunque unas con más éxito que otras. Una colección en la que amas cada historia muestra a un escritor de talento extremo o a un lector de apatía extrema. Criticar una colección de cuentos sobre la base de que no nos gustaron algunos es como criticar, por ejemplo, una pizza porque no nos gustan todos los ingredientes. No es necesario que nos gusten todos, sino que podemos escoger y elegir. Así mismo, podemos escoger y elegir las historias cortas. Están todas allí para ser leídas si lo deseamos, pero no estamos obligados a hacerlo.

En esta colección. cuando las ideas parecen estándar, evolucionan de forma inesperada; y cuando las ideas son singularmente originales, también evolucionan de formas impredecibles. Un sentido de la belleza adorna muchos de los cuentos que no son de terror. El patetismo emocional nunca se descarta y sus historias de terror siempre son satisfactorias. Especialmente valiosa es la inteligencia de las historias: aquí no hay nada que sea plano, nada que sea pasivo. Cada historia, ya sea larga o corta, tiene algo en lo que nos obliga a pensar.

Lo que más se aprecia de las historias de esta colección es que Hill escribe de forma natural. Donde algunos escritores exprimen fragmentos de lo fantástico solo para mantener la etiqueta del género, Hill agrega lo irreal solo de manera pertinente. Como resultado, hay varias historias en la colección que son realistas pero adquieren más significado por carecer de lo sobrenatural.

La colección se abre con su entrada más fuerte, "El Mejor Cuento de Terror", que es meta-terror si tal cosa existe. La historia funciona en tres niveles: ficción pura, ficción dentro de la ficción y ficción en el contexto de la realidad (es decir, se acerca a la cuarta pared). Habla sobre un editor de terror que se encuentra con un relato extraño para una antología que está preparando; la historia continúa recorriendo brevemente los fundamentos teóricos del terror como género, así como el fandom del terror, antes de terminar con una nota fuerte que satisface la historia en su conjunto. reconociendo dónde reside el horror en el contexto cultural actual. En general, es un truco muy difícil de lograr, pero Hill lo hizo con gran éxito.

Un cuento de fantasmas que parece resaltar el legado estadounidense de la guerra, titulado "Un Fantasma del Siglo XX" habla de un cine posterior a la Segunda Guerra Mundial en el que habita una niña fantasma. Contado a través de los ojos de un joven que la conoce después de colarse en el cine una tarde, es, de hecho, la influencia que ella va a tener sobre él donde la historia encuentra su corazón.

Con una advertencia de una mayor tolerancia y compasión capturada de forma explícita y metafórica, "La Ley de la Gravedad" habla de Arthur, un chico de secundaria que es un muñeco inflable, constantemente molestado y ridiculizado por los matones, y que vive una vida llena de ansiedad. Teniendo que preocuparse constantemente por tener una fuga o ser pinchado por completo, la intimidación y la burla finalmente llegan a un punto crítico, y las cosas "estallan". Aquí se resalta el fuerte grado de lástima que Hill genera por Arthur, aunque ese, de hecho, podría ser el defecto de la historia al ser demasiado obvio.

Siguiendo con una versión juvenil de “La Metamorfosis” de Kafka, “Oirás Cantar a la Langosta” cuenta la historia de un adolescente que come un insecto radiactivo y se convierte él mismo en un saltamontes mutante gigante. El propósito de Hill en la historia no está claro, es posible que intentara abordar el problema de los tiroteos en las escuelas de los Estados Unidos, pero puede ser más una representación de la menguante escena doméstica de ése país, o ambas o ninguna.

En una historia suavizada del personaje de Van Helsing, "Hijos de Abraham" cuenta la vida doméstica del cazador de vampiros y los problemas que tiene para criar a dos hijos adolescentes. Contada a través de los ojos del hijo mayor, termina con una nota que muchos no esperarían. Una historia en la que Hill golpea el sentimiento del lector a la izquierda, luego a la derecha, y luego todo de nuevo.

Con la participación de un entrenador de béisbol con peculiaridades psicológicas y su hijo cortado por la misma tijera, "Mejor que en Casa" habla de un niño que intenta aceptar sus miedos y fobias, y la "ayuda" que le brinda su madre. Lo que “La Ley de la Gravedad” captura de manera abierta, esta historia lo logra de una forma más sutil y es más conmovedora por ello.

Una pieza de terror directa con un final satisfactorio, "El Teléfono Negro" cuenta la historia de un niño de doce años que ha sido secuestrado y ahora está prisionero en un sótano desconocido. Si bien la premisa es muy simple, Hill hace un gran trabajo aumentando el suspenso, que culmina en un clímax aceptable.

"Carrera Final" habla de Wyatt, un hombre malicioso, con problemas de aprendizaje, y su mal día. Despedido de su trabajo por razones que él no entiende (pero que nosotros como lectores sí), rápidamente se ve envuelto en una situación que hace girar nuestras confidencias (y tiene legítimamente un final inesperado).

Convirtiéndose en el anti-Superman, "La Capa" habla de un niño que descubre una capa mágica que le permite volar. Sin embargo, en lugar de usar su nueva habilidad para combatir el crimen, encuentra otros usos. Una historia con un final bizarro, tal vez inexplicable (suponiendo que Hill buscaba algo más que lo evidente.

Una historia breve pero escalofriante, "El Último Aliento" cuenta la visita de una familia al Museo del Silencio donde el Dr. Alainger ha estado recolectando los últimos alientos de las personas en unos frascos especiales. El final no es lo que uno podría predecir.

“Madera Muerta”, que consta de un poco más que una página, es una pequeña extraña historia que en realidad recuerda a los episodios de los programas de los ochentas en los que las plantas se levantan gritando y toman el poder.

“El Desayuno de la Viuda” cuenta la historia de un vagabundo que salta del tren y se tuerce el tobillo. Cojeando hasta la casa más cercana, lo recibe una viuda quien lo alimenta. Ella también lo viste, que es lo que lleva al extraño final.

Quizás la historia más forzada de la colección, “Bobby Conroy Regresa de entre los Muertos”, es la resurrección solo en el sentido metafórico. Habla sobre un comediante fracasado que regresa a su ciudad natal para comenzar de nuevo, se encuentra con su novia de la escuela secundaria en el rodaje de una película de George Romero, donde ambos interpretan a extras zombis, y le da una nueva perspectiva a la vida.

“La Máscara de mi Padre”, una historia bizarra con una vibra fantástica, nos hace pensar en logias y sociedades secretas.

Y cerrando con una nota relativamente fuerte, "Reclusión Voluntaria" habla de un hombre que mira hacia atrás a su juventud, particularmente a su hermano con problemas de desarrollo, y las estructuras extrañas e inexplicables que construía en forma de Trastorno Obsesivo Compulsivo. Si bien no posee mucha sustancia, Hill hace un gran trabajo manteniendo el compromiso a través de giros inesperados en la historia.

Y finalmente, tal vez haya una que otra sorpresa en los Agradecimientos al final del libro.

Tiene sus altibajos, pero “Fantasmas” sigue siendo una sólida colección debut. Comenzando a desvanecerse a medida que la colección llega a su fin, historias como "La Capa", "La Máscara de mi Padre", "Bobby Conroy Regresa de entre los Muertos" y "El Desayuno de la Viuda" no son tan sólidas y consistentes como "El Mejor Cuento de Terror”, “Mejor que en Casa” e “Hijos de Abraham”. Hill parece poser un talento para retratar el punto de vista de los adolescentes, pues diez de las dieciséis historias se centran en jóvenes varones con problemas personales y emocionales que resultan de asuntos domésticos.

Algunas de las historias son de terror relativamente directo, pero siempre están enmarcadas o desarrolladas de manera no estándar, dando un elemento de sorpresa necesario si se quiere romper con el estereotipo. El interés humano es el núcleo de las historias; los fantasmas, los asesinos en serie, etc. existen, pero tienen un propósito más amplio, lo que significa que los lectores que se desconectan cuando ven un material de tipo “slasher” tendrán algo sobre lo qué reflexionar, o al menos un ancla con la que relacionarse.

Reseña completa sin spoilers en mi canal de YouTube ➡ Maponto Lee 📚 Link aquí!
Profile Image for Brandon.
914 reviews235 followers
June 2, 2016
For a long time, this book was my “white whale”. Up to recently, I had three of Joe Hill’s novels (Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, NOS4A2) in hardcover and although 20th Century Ghosts was easily accessible in paperback or for download on my Kindle, I felt I needed to match my existing format and seek out the rare hardbound edition.

With every second-hand bookstore I entered, this illusive short story collection was front and centre in my mind. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t find it. A few months ago I had all but given up until my lovely girlfriend surprised me with a copy for Christmas! Did I mention it was signed? My name might not be “Tom” but who cares? Close enough.

20th Century Ghosts is a collection of short stories dealing with the subjects of death, loss and fear. Although Joe Hill is an accomplished horror novelist, not everything in here will give you the willies. In fact, although one of the better stories - the collection’s namesake, 20th Century Ghost - features a spooky specter, it’s more nostalgic and sweet rather than scary.

There are some great ones in here that I really enjoyed. “Best New Horror” tells of a magazine editor who has fallen into a rut - both professionally and personally - before coming across a new story so enthralling that it sets him on a quest to find its reclusive author. “Pop Art” did a real number on me and is probably my favourite of the bunch. It is a sad, coming of age tale about two friends who experience profound loss - did I mention one of them is an inflatable human?

I still struggle with short story collections in that I’m so accustomed to long-form fiction that reading several tales in one session tends to burn me out a lot faster. I need to process a story after I finish one and then refocus on another. Maybe they’re better read in short bursts. I should probably adapt this strategy in the future.

20th Century Ghosts is a glimpse into Hill’s past as several of the stories were written just as he was starting out as a published author - a time when he was relatively unknown and people didn’t know he was Uncle Stevie’s boy. It’s worth checking out for die hard fans and genre fiction enthusiasts alike.
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