Recently, Amazon got together six horror writers that you’ve likely heard of and tasked them with writing short stories about monsters. The collection is called “Creature Feature.” And, in anticipation of Halloween, I figured it would be fun to go over each of the books in the set individually throughout the month. Then, we’ll see which one is the best of the bunch.
We’ll be going over them in the order they’re presented, starting with…
“The Pram” by Joe Hill
As odd as it is for a horror fan to say, “The Pram” is the first thing I’ve read by Joe Hill, the son of the most famous horror writer in the world, Stephen King. But, from what I’ve heard through the grapevine of criticism, they share a fair number of stylistic flourishes.
Most obviously, they both love to give a really detailed overview of the characters involved in a story, no matter how brief their appearance. And, yep, “The Pram” is fairly long because of this. There are only three major characters—and only one major plot thread—and yet we learn a lot about the people involved. Their jobs, their habits, their backgrounds. Just entire paragraphs devoted to details.
And that makes the main aspect of this story even more prevalent and likely to upset. For those that haven’t guessed, the monster in this one is basically a newborn. And the connection the main couple has to that is the wife experienced a miscarriage, then went through a depressive episode, and is only starting to recover as the story begins. The narrative, however, is from the perspective of the husband and heavily explores his emotional experience with it.
And I’m not the person to weigh in on if the story handles this respectfully or accurately. There’s grief, fighting, guilt, and more, and it’s the bulk of the story. It’s relentlessly there, in pages and paragraphs.
Besides that prevalent quality, “The Pram” mostly plays out like a lot of horror stories. You can call most of the reveals a mile off. There’s a fictional religious group called “The Sin-Planters” that gives some level of background to why any of this is happening. There’s a pseudo-jump scare moment. A little gore. Some domestic fighting. It’s set out like a tragedy, with a clear descent into death, and that often makes for powerful-if-predictable horror.
What mostly elevates “The Pram” is strong writing on a technical level. I said there was a lot of exposition, but it breezes by. It somehow doesn’t bog down the pacing. You can easily read this in one sitting. And while I have a feeling that “Creature Feature” started with the most famous name it could, rather than whatever story most embodies the theme, it’s a good start for this collection. If you can handle its subject matter, give it a read.
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