Saturday, February 26, 2011

Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box
Joe Hill
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (December 22, 2009)
4/5 Stars

The hero of Heart-Shaped Box is Jude Coyne, a middle-aged metal-rock star with a fascination for the morbid which shows itself, not only in his music, but also in his collection of creepy curios. When he sees a ghost being auctioned on the internet, he knows he has to have it for his collection. If it's a real ghost, cool; if it's not, it's still good press.

The seller states that she will send the buyer her stepdad's suit, because that is what the ghost seems to be clinging to, in the expectation that the ghost will follow the suit.

The suit arrives.

All hell breaks loose.

Hill's supernatural thriller is intense and frightening in the first section as the ghost makes his plans known to Jude--so much so that I often felt the pound of my heart. In the second part, as Jude begins to formulate a plan to survive the ghost, it feels like an action thriller, with car chases and gun standoffs and physical danger. As the story winds up to the climax, it returns to pure preternatural terror and then, thankfully, the storm is over and the final sections pull it all together with fine prose.

Hill's writing is excellent. He displays emotions so well, layers upon layers of emotion, that the characters actions and reactions are fully believable. The emotional depth of this story was surprising at times, and there were some very beautiful moments in the midst of all the thrills.

The characters are well developed, with back stories being fleshed out in a natural way, through memories and conversation. The only flaw I found in the book was that the hero suffered from Dan Brown Syndrome--Jude was able to keeping going an unnaturally long amount of time while injured. That said, Hill explained Jude's relationship to pain earlier in the book, and Jude often passed out, slept, hurt and was cranky. So, while he had way more pain tolerance that was probably possible, Hill covered all his bases with that one and it isn't a serious problem.

The importance of music in the story was a nice angle. I particularly enjoyed all the references to classic metal-rock bands, musicians and songs, some obvious and some very subtle.

Overall I was very impressed with Hill's prose, style and plot development. Heart-Shaped Box is more than just a "horror" novel. It is a well crafted novel that is certainly worth reading.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this review too
    you and Bryan have such unique styles of writing
    I do stay away from the Horror genre as I have a lot of imagination and will surely be imagining things that go bump in the night
    After "the ring " I was a basket cast