Horrormeister Hill (The Fireman, 2016) offers a four-pack of mayhem in this sparkling collection of short novels.
Think climate change is bad now? Just wait until those obsidian-sharp blades of rain cut you to pieces come the next storm. Hill, son of Stephen King, has his father’s eye for those climacteric moments when the ordinary turns into the extraordinary—and the sinister to boot. In Rain, a warm Colorado day turns nasty when silver and gold needles begin to pour down. Hill’s narrator, ever the helpful neighbor, watches as they rip a woman to shreds: “Her crinkly silver gown was jerked this way and that on her body, as if invisible dogs were fighting over it.” Memorable but icky, that. In such circumstances, you can bet that the ordinary norms don’t hold; give humans an emergency dire enough, and civil society collapses, presto! So it is in Loaded when a Florida shopping mall becomes the playground of a shooter unusual in more ways than one; what gives the story, which is altogether too probable, creepy luster is the dancing cyclonic firestorm that’s heading toward the mall, which may have been what prompted the security-guard protagonist of the tale to add to the death count without the intercession of any apparent conscience. Hill squeezes in some nice pop-culture references along the way, including one to a namesake: “Finally the kid who looked like Jonah Hill had entered the shop, and the shooter, with her dying breath, had put a bullet in his fat, foolish face.” Icky again—as it should be for a horror honcho. In homage to "The Illustrated Man," perhaps, in Snapshot Hill imagines an ancient mariner sort of psychopath whose Phoenician-script tats invite onlookers to run away but instead lure them in, the easier for him to tinker with their memories, while Aloft is a pitch-perfect fable that blends Ted Chiang and Aristophanes into an eerie delight.
Worth waiting in line for, if you’re a Hill fan. If you’re not, this is the book to turn you into one.