January's Apostrophe Box featured Joe Hill's Strange Weather, the newest release from the horror writer. This collection of four short novels debuted at #9 on the New York Times bestseller list.
The four novellas that make up Strange Weather are Snapshot, Loaded, Aloft, and Rain. Each story differs from the next in terms of the point-of-view character, but, as one would expect from a collection of short novels, there are similarities aplenty. Let's chat a bit about the novel, shall we?
The collection begins with Snapshot, in which a thirteen-year-old boy leads a fairly lonely, mundane life until he discovers his childhood babysitter, dazed and confused, wandering along the street. What unfolds afterward is a story in which he meets "the Phoenician" and discovers what that fancy "Solarid" camera is really used for.
The POV character in Snapshot is Michael (a thirteen-year-old Trekkie video game fan). He's a kind-hearted kid who helps Mrs. Beukes (the wandering old lady) back home--mainly because he has nothing better to do, but also because he feels obligated to help since he has known the family his entire life. During the course of his good deed-doing, childhood memories resurface, helping him remember that Mrs. Beukes was present in his life more than anyone else (his parents included).
How do you think the course of the story would have changed (if at all) if Mrs. Beukes hadn't been such an important anchor in Michael's childhood? Do you think that his loneliness fueled his drive to interact with "the Phoenician" as he did? Did anyone else get a Goosebumps vibe while reading?
Next in the collection is Loaded, in which the lives of several character hinge on the damnable character of Kellaway, a veteran who spends his days as a mall security guard. This novella is loaded with action, death, destruction, and adult themes. I'll admit that this story made me uncomfortable and was almost too much at times. It definitely has shock value. Possibly the most discomfiting notion is that the reality of it made me uncomfortable, something that I pondered for a long time after I finished reading. It's one tragedy after another, a seemingly casual chain of events that eventually is revealed as being a dominoes-with-dynamite type of chain. And the underlying notion is that the characters represent the truth of humanity: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The story is told through multiple POVs, the stories intermingling disastrously at the end. The shifting POVs were necessary for the way this particular chain of events were set up, and I don't think that the story would have been as powerful had we been deprived of the inner workings of the characters with whom we experienced the events.
What are your thoughts on Loaded? How did it make you feel? Did it make you analyze the reasons why it made you feel uncomfortable as it did me? (It's likely that I'll come back at a later date and talk a bit more about Loaded in the future, so if you have a keen interest in this story, let me know and we can talk more. There are more things I'd like to express, but won't here for the sake of semi-brevity.)
Next up is Aloft and this story worked to calm my nerves a bit after reading the previous story.
While on a commemorative skydiving excursion, agoraphobic Aubrey finds himself captive on a cloud after a mishap separates him from his tandem partner. Told only through Aubrey's perspective, we are able to see how he spent a great amount of his life before the skydiving trip chasing after someone with whom he would never have a real future.
How did you feel when Aubrey discovered how the cloud was being powered? What about his discovery that the cloud seemed to be able to read his thoughts? How do you think Aubrey's experience will shape his future? Do you think he'll be able to return to his old life as it was, or how do you think his outlook may change?
The final novel in the collection, Rain may have been my favorite. The main character, Honeysuckle, is drawn into a horrible occurrence that destroys the world as she knows it. She loses everything she cared for most and continues to experience death and destruction. Her good deeds are rewarded, too, but one of the most noteworthy moments for me (and all too realistic) is the idea that the surrounding gore and destruction became part of the backdrop as she moved through the city. This idea stopped me cold, because as sad as it may be, it's all too true. Expose a person to anything for long enough, and he/she will acclimate. That says a lot about the flexibility of humans, but it also says a lot about how the constant subjection to destruction and pain may make one callous to it.
What do you think about Honeysuckle's weakening shock at the widespread destruction? How did you feel when it was revealed where the rain had originated? Did you think that it had originated from a different source? If so, from where did you imagine it came?
Overall, I enjoyed Strange Weather and I'm grateful that I read it because it brought me out of my comfort zone. This novel is my first experience reading Joe Hill's work and I don't think it will be my last.
Be sure to comment and let me know how you liked (or didn't like) the novel. Do you have any favorite lines from any of the novels contained within?
Thanks for joining us for another discussion. Be sure to join the new group on Facebook to follow along with more discussions.
Until next time,
Don't forget to check out Jeremy's discussion of The Collapsing Empire.