cover image 20th Century Ghosts

20th Century Ghosts

Joe Hill, . . PS Publishing, $45 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-904619-46-8

Fully developed characters with complex emotional lives enhance the 14 horror stories in Hill's extraordinary debut collection. In "Abraham's Boys," Count Dracula's nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing, tries to teach his young sons his dispassionate methods of vampire slaying, but succeeds only in demonstrating his soullessness. "Voluntary Committal" tells of an idiot savant who applies his uncanny architectural skills to helping his adored older brother find a suggestively sinister way to remove problems from his life. Whether detailing relationships between children and parents or between teenage peers, Hill is flawless in his ability to articulate frailties that humanize his characters and make them vulnerable to intrusions of the strange. This is particularly noticeable in the title story, about a haunted cinema whose young female ghost seduces patrons with unfulfilled lives, and the surreal "My Father's Mask," which disturbs with subtle hints of taboo sexuality. There's not a false note or disappointing effort in this book, which introduces one of the most confident and assured new voices in horror and dark fantasy to emerge in recent years. (Jan.)