Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box will most probably not make it onto the list of favorite books of the year, but it's a hell of a debut novel for Joe Hill. The book didn't start off all that great for me. It centers around a rock star who is a collector of dark and occult-like objects such as sketches of the seven dwarfs drawn by John Wayne Gacy and a smut film; plays death metal music, and dates goth chicks. So it inherently had a few aspects too it that were just a bit too cliche for my taste while the story was being set up. They were mostly too cliche for my taste because I was a part of this culture as a teen and in my early college days and I guess I'm still there at heart...just don't dress the part. It was just a bit overdone. But once Hill got comfortable with his story and the whole goth, shock thing was dropped and we met our real, vulnerable characters, I really enjoyed the rest of the ride.

Heart-Shaped Box is the story of a rock star with a past. Jude Coyne has lived a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Needless to say he's been with many women throughout his career and has taken to naming some of them after the states that he met them in. His current live-in girlfriend is Georgia and Jude's found more comfort in her than he's found in anyone else in awhile. His only other true relationships are with his two German Shepperds. He hasn't spoken with his father in over 30 years after suffering a horrible childhood with him, two of his best friends and former band mates are dead, and his only other friend is his assistant, but he's more of a secretary than a friend.

So here's the scary part...As I mentioned before, Jude's a collector of all things macabre and can't turn down an offer of something new to add to his collection. The assistant friend mentioned above one day finds a suit for sale on an eBay-like auction site. Here's the catch - the suit belongs to a dead man who has been haunting the house that it occupies. The auction says that the man never got to wear this suit in his earthly life and will follow the suit wherever it goes. Jude buys the suit for $1000, essentially buying a ghost to add to his collection. Well, Jude gets his ghost. The suit arrives in a black heart-shaped box. Shortly after Jude awakens at night to find a man sitting in his hallway wearing the suit with his eyes scribbled out and swinging a razor blade on a chain. But there's more to the ghost than Jude knows and both his life and Georgia's is at stake...as the cover says "sooner or later the dead catch up..."

I've heard plenty of people say that this novel scared the crap out of them and kept them up all night. I can't say that it did that for me, but that's nothing against the author. I'm rarely truly freaked out by books. This book did have my heart pounding with suspense at certain parts and I was definitely flying through some pages. I tend to not scare easily though. The only things that truly frighten me are "jump out at you" moments, so movies and haunted houses will do the trick! Now there were scenes in this novel that repulsed me and be warned that there are topics that arise in this book that are quite disturbing. But I think that Hill handled everything well, and I have to say that I will be reading Mr. Hill's next novel whenever it is published. I know that he has a collection of short stories coming out soon called 20th Century Ghosts and it is already available in the UK!


Susan said...

I think we have similar opinions on this book - some good stuff, some truly gross stuff, some crap. I don't know if I'll read him again, although I did enjoy Heart-Shaped Box in some ways.

Chris said...

Susan, Right there with you ;) I'll most likely read his next novel whenever it comes out. It hooked me enough to give him another shot. It wasn't an extraordinary novel, but it was entertaining enough...