Strange Weather, a collection of four short novels by Joe Hill, is aptly named because it deals with climates—and not just the obvious ones. One dictionary definition of climate is: “the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period”; but the one I’m looking for is this: “the prevailing trend of public opinion or of another aspect of public life.”
2017 has seen some strange weather, indeed, and I’m not just talking about the hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico and Florida, or the fires in California and Montana (note: these are examples, not comprehensive lists.) I’m talking about more than just the climate-climate; I’m talking about the political climate, the social climate, the global climate. I’m talking about the frightening clown-show (yes, scarier even than the kind of clown horror generated by anyone in the King family) that is the Trump administration; our country’s morbid fascination with guns, and the subsequent epidemic of gun violence; the hateful, bigoted underbelly of our nation, thick and infectious like a layer of gangrene; the global unrest and worldwide fear and threats of terror and war.
This collection is filled with torrential rain, fires that devour, clouds that aren’t clouds, rain that isn’t truly rain. Strange Weather is not lacking in apocalyptic atmospheric conditions, but incredibly enough, the bizarre weather isn’t the scariest element of the book. The weather is more like the vehicle that drives the story, but the true terror lies with the passengers: humanity. Through this novel we, as readers, bear witness to the most terrifying thing of all: what human beings are capable of doing to each other.
It’s as though Hill has included all of his emotions and dismay about the current state of the world in one book—and yet he manages to do this without arrogant commentary, without preaching, without sacrificing story, and with a whole lot of heart. The stories are beautifully told and painfully cathartic to read.
For anyone who’s been watching the events of the nation and world unfold this year saying what the fuck? with increasing levels of panic, disbelief, and despair: this book is for you.