by Joe Hill
Format: Hardback, 81 pages.
Publisher: PS Publishing, 2008.
Having just completed a 1300+ page book, it is with some relief that the next book on my reading pile was only 80(ish) pages, what is remarkable is how much Joe Hill has crammed into these 81 pages. For those who aren’t aware “Gunpowder” is Joe Hill’s latest novella, only available (so far anyway) in a variety of limited editions from PS Publishing. It is some measure of Joe’s growing success that most of these editions sold out very quickly.
Unfortunately Joe Hill seems to be tarred with some kind of negative hype banner, it’s almost as if, because of his parentage, he can’t possibly be as good as the hype suggests. Well I disagree, on the evidence of this and most of his other published works he is a major talent so for once believe the hype. Gunpowder is an SF novella in the tradition of Bradbury. Set in a distant planet in an unnamed future this is a story full of questions. A group of genetically modified (artificially created) children live on this planet, part of their modification is the ability to psyform, create physical objects from thoughts, a talent that grows as they grow older. The caring, sharing powers that be have clearly dumped them on a distant planet to allow them to develop these abilities with the eventual aim of terraforming the planet. Of course, being children, they tend to use their imaginations for less beneficial means and it is the job of their “mother” to control them.
So part Lord of The Flies, part Martian Chronicles, this is a story of love, redemption, the cruelty of children, the love of a mother, the callousness of society and the politics of genetic modification. To create a full blown novel which engages with the characters, is thought provoking, emotionally involving and yet well paced would be an achievement for any writer. To achieve this in the space of 81 pages shows the full extent of Joe Hill’s talent. I hope this story eventually finds the wider audience it deserves but for the moment PS Publishing should be congratulated not just for the quality of the production but for releasing new gems of this standard and I for one will be waiting for Joe Hill’s next work with baited breath, hype or no hype.
Rating 4 out of 5