Two of my most anticipated books of the year dropped about a month apart; one was penned by the Father, the other by the Son. One's name is recognizable to anyone; the other's will be there soon. Trust me.
Joe Hill (The Son)
I have to open with this in case you don't know or haven't figured it out yet: Joe Hill (Joe Hillstrom King) is the son of the literary genius himself, Stephen King. King has another son, Owen, also a writer, but Owen's works are more satire, black comedy-type novels. I've read them, and they aren't bad, but I'm a horror guy at heart, which is why this post is focusing on Joe.
Joe began his career with a collection of short stories titled 20th Century Ghosts, followed with a supernatural horror novel Heart Shaped Box, and then took us for a walk with the Devil in Horns. Horns was published a few years ago, and since then Joe's been teasing us constantly, leaking tiny detail after tiny detail via Twitter and his Tumblr page, about this newest, biggest novel, NOS4A2.
Heart-Shaped Box I liked better than Horns, but all of Joe's work I've enjoyed -- greatly. To use a cliche, the apple definitely didn't far fall from the tree, and while this thought crossed my mind during the reading of Hill's earlier works, it couldn't be more apparent than it is in NOS4A2. Joe's got a knack for horror, there's no denying that -- his previous books proved it. But with NOS4A2, his imagination, his ability to handle a large scope, his humor, his control of his story, are all on display. They story spans decades, locales cross the country (both the real one and a make-believe one), the characters are quirky and have their demons, and it equals 700 pages of fun and gruesomeness.
Joe's career was nothing to snort at before this book, but I think NOS4A2 may be the point where we look back in twenty years (after we've stopped waiting for the new Stephen King novel and are pre-ordering the new Hill novel -- probably with Frank Durabont's son directing the film adaptation) and say, "That's when he made people notice him. That's when he stuck a leg out from his Father's shadow tested what could happen. That was the beginning." Is Joe's writing as good as his Father's? His pacing, his way with words? How can you possibly compare? But Stephen has said in an interview that Joe's got better ideas than he does. I sure as heck hope he shares some of them with us.
One last thing to note: Joe has said that he was going to have some fun with the all the Father comparisons in NOS4A2, and he definitely did, throwing in multiple references to his father's work (Stephen King fans will spot them all easily), and also "stealing" a bit of his father's trademark "this is all my world" tie-ins by reference places and things from his earlier novel's in his current one.
Joe's a hell of a writer, and I can't wait to see what he's got in store to scare us with in the future.
Stephen King (The Father)
I won't spend long on this one because I mainly wanted to talk about Joe and his talents, but Stephen had a new book come out recently as well (one of two he's planned for this year) and I wanted to discuss it briefly.
Joyland does two things: It shows that even after all these years, Stephen King is at the top of his game, proving to audiences that there have been few people published who can tell a better story. It also manages to convey this message while being unlike anything else King is known to write. Which in my opinion makes it all the more special.
Joyland isn't horror. In fact, it's published by Hard Case Crime, not Stephen's usual publisher (Simon and Schuster). Hard Case Crime is a smaller imprint, specializing in paperback crime/mystery stories. Stephen has stated he used to love those types of books, and thought Joyland would be the perfect fit. He's even gone so far to not make an e-book available, really wanting to sell the feeling he hopes readers will share with him.
Joyland is a shorter book, less than 300 pages, and King doesn't waste a single word. Yes, there's a ghost, kinda, and a murder, for sure, but this is really a coming of age story about a young man whose heart was broken and he decides to take a job at a small beach-town amusement park to help him forget his heart-ache. It doesn't sound like much, but it is. King uses Joyland to explore human nature and emotions in the way only he really knows how. He explores first loves, early deaths, growing up, and... joy. Stephen King fan or not, Joyland is worth your time to read.
Now bring on Doctor Sleep! (Sequal to The Shining)