I love short stories. I love horror short stories. I have enthused about how great King and even Koontz (man I miss old school great writer Koontz) are when writing shorter fare. To write a short story takes more discipline I think since you have to keep the story moving and have a great ending all while writing with less words. Every word is going to be important. And you also have a shorter amount of time to grab the reader. Sadly for me, there was only one story that I thought was above 3 stars (Snapshot). Everything else was three stars or lower for me.
"Snapshot" (4 stars)-Honestly gave me shades of King's "Sundog" novella. I can't remember what anthology that was in. But the plot about a camera that does things that no camera should be able to do is similar. It even has a young boy as one of the main characters. Told in the first person, Snapshot has pre-teen Michael Figlione. Michael is an only child and lonely. He builds things in his father's garage while trying his best to make himself invisible to the outside world. Due to being overweight and having a last name people can make fun of, Michael is bullied/ignored by most people. When the old cleaner/babysitter of his arrives at his home one day, Michael hears about a so-called Polaroid Man that keeps sneaking pictures of her. When Michael runs across this same man, he realizes that he is not what he seems.
So I loved the idea of the otherworldly camera, not original, but still enjoyed. I loved the idea that Michael took so long to realize how loved he was by Shelly and how much he missed her. I even felt a bit sad/wistful reading about how terrible Alzheimer's is and how it robs one of their memories and how awful it is for a family to witness.
But what drove me up the wall a bit is that we get an idea of who the Polaroid Man is and his connection to Shelly, but it's never said. I am still baffled about what was going on there. I also wanted to know about the names on the other albums and why the Polaroid Man had a picture of Michael.
I thought the story went on too long honestly. It should have ended with Michael taking his picture and just summarize from there what went on. But I have noticed Hill tends to not just write an ending. It has to be some mangum opus every time.
"Loaded" (3.5 stars)- Well we get Hill's views on guns in America. Similar to mine, but after a while I thought the story just got way too unbelievable. But then I remembered the Las Vegas shooting (got sad) and thought that maybe this story is not too unbelievable with regards to a lone shooter just going on a rampage, but . I think the big miss for me was really that once again it took a little while for the different threads to link up. And once they did, we stayed way too focused on one character (Kellaway) and not enough on others (Laternglass)
I also don't think that the police would/could clear anyone in a shooting without doing recreations, forensics, etc. Sorry, I watch way too many documentaries these days, and I thought how the shooting went down and how no one realized what was going on would work. I do agree though the media is not that great, so yes they would run around screaming some dude was a hero without thinking waiting to see if all the facts were in.
I also thought the relentless violence was a bit much after a while. The ending though with the last sentence said gave me a chill though. And I thought good for Hill for not just throwing a happy ending in there.
"Aloft" (2 stars)- Sorry. I did not like this one at all. Everything not involving the alien cloud (I cannot believe I had to type that) worked for me. It took a while to realize we are just reading a story about a guy who has a crush on a girl that is not that into him. But honestly that is what we have. It just read as too out there for me and every time I returned to alien cloud I just could not stop myself from rolling my eyes. At one point I just wondered if Aubrey (the main character) was hallucinating or something.
And for me, I felt sorry for Aubrey, but then that turned into annoyance when you get the whole backstory to his character and his connections to characters called Harriet and another named June. Together, Harriet and June are a band called Junicorn. When Aubrey heard them play one night, he played along to them with his cello (I don't even remember why he had it) and they turned into a trio. Aubrey falls for Harriet, and Harriet, well Harriet not so much. I just felt like I was reading about a breakup that never happened cause the two people were not dating. I don't know. Let's just go with it didn't work and I moved happily to the next story.
"Rain" (2 stars)-Look I take in a certain sort of disbelief about things in order to read horror. But for me, rule number one is that I have to believe it could happen. I get that the President of the United States is Trump (sigh) and we get some obvious references to him so the stupid things the President does so could happen. I just had a hard time with the whole "rain" thing. It didn't even make scientific sense. And what about places that don't have any rainfall? Would people not try to make a beeline for those places?
I thought this was a weird homage to "The Stand" in a way. It just didn't work cause anytime someone tries to science up their horror books it just takes me out of the story (looking at you Dean Koontz).
I also think there was way too much going on and I don't believe anyone could just walk thirty miles in what seemed a short amount of time for Honeysuckle Speck (that's the main character's name) to do. I started thinking about "The Long Walk" and remember reading that book and going to the gym to "walk" 4 miles on the treadmill. I needed to do a brisk jog/really fast walk to do. So going that same speed would still take some hours. But I guess leg/muscle cramps don't exist. Ah well.
I did like the character of Honeysuckle, but I felt like she needed to be a character in a totally different book. There was so much happening in this one. It read like a draft of a longer book he had in mind.