Thursday, January 10, 2008

Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill (no spoilers, I swear!)


My first book of the new year is quite a worthy choice! I chose to read Heart-Shaped Box to rest my brain between chunks of Great Expectations, and just as I feared, it completely took over my reading life for the better part of three days (would've been less, but I had to work, eat, and sleep).

Joe Hill's debut novel has a brilliant premise. Most appealing to those of us who enjoy the weird and macabre, perhaps. As I mentioned in another post, it's about a burned out rock star named Judas Coyne who collects all manner of gory relics: a trepanned skull, a signed confession from a witch, a well-used noose, a rather disturbing snuff film (as opposed to the happy/sunny ones). When a haunted suit shows up on an Internet auction site--not eBay, oh no--he doesn't give a second thought to plunking down $1,000 to secure his winnings. When the suite arrives in a black, heart-shaped box, Judas doesn't give it much thought. He certainly doesn't believe it's haunted...merely a good story. But all that changes in a flash when the dead man makes his presence known.

It's been a long while since I read a horror novel, but the alluring plot of this one--not to mention a rave review from Les--really didn't give me a choice. I had to get my hands on it, so I consider it VERY lucky that I ran across it on Barnes & Noble's bargain shelves! There's nothing like a good deal to sweeten a reading experience.

While I had a few tiny problems with the book which get in the way of completely effusive praise, the praise is pretty darn close to effusive. The first third of the book was ridiculously scary. Of course, I'm one of those people often more frightened by the unseen--by the possibility that something will jump out of the closet--than actually seeing something nasty and evil do the jumping. Such was the case with Heart-Shaped Box. I was scared nearly crapless by the possibility that the suit might be haunted, and even more so when Judas began to see the ghost but was unsure of its motives and ability to cause mayhem and harm.

As the book went on, and I won't give any spoilers here..I promised! As the book moved forward the ghost became more...obvious? In-your-face? Certainly more active. There was little mystery left as to his penchant for badness. He was one crazy mofo, if you will. At that point, the story became slightly less engrossing, but Hill's talent carried it through with interesting plot twists, nice character development, and an ability to tie up loose strings, even if they weren't all happy endings.

Heart-Shaped Box, despite its few flaws as I see them, is a great ride. It's interesting, original in many respects, and wonderfully atmospheric, and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone.

Anyone willing to sleep with the lights on, that is.

22 comments:

  1. Yep. Gotta get it.

    It's been optioned to be a movie ya know.

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  2. I know! I can't wait. I think it'll make a great movie if it's done right.

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  3. Oooh! Must check it out. Too bad I wasn't aware of its existence for the RIP challenge.

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  4. I think you'd looooove (that's a lot of love) it, Jen.

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  5. I think I'm really gonna have to get this book. I am going to be scared to death, I know, but it sounds like it's worth it.

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  6. It's soo worth it, Funky! Give it a go!

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  7. It sounds great. I'm pretty much a big baby when it comes to horror movies, but I can usually read a book. However, I'll save it for nights when hubby isn't working. :)

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  8. Yea!! I'm so excited to read this! It's on my list to read this year. I gave myself a broad timeline for the simple reason that if I "plan" to read it, it won't get done lol. Thanks for the review!

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  9. You found it at the bargain table? I think I will have to visit B&N soon! I love a good scary book and this sounds perfect.

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  10. Great review, Andi! I agree with all the subtle points you made about its flaws. I think one of the things that creeped me out the most was the radio broadcasts. Eeeeeeee, creepy!! Almost made me afraid to turn my stereo on.

    How odd that you found it on the bargain table at B&N. I haven't see it in our store, but that doesn't mean much. We may just not have received our shipment yet. Kind of sad to think it's already hit the remainder stock, though.

    Thanks for the mention of my review. You're too kind.

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  11. Lisa, very good idea! Definitely don't read it alone.

    Kristina, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Iliana and Les, actually, in truth, I found it on the B&N clearance site. I looked it up tonight and they have it for the regular 25.00 and another one (still hardcover, same cover, etc.) for 5 or 6 dollars. Not sure what the deal is with that, but it was definitely a good surprise when I wanted to spend part of my gift card.

    Les, the radio parts creeped me out, too! And that one scene with the snuff film was truly deplorable. Very uncomfortable and horrifying.

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  12. I'm adding that to my list of books to read after I secure the Austen hero who can grasp me in his arms during the truly frightening parts!

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  13. My copy of this one arrived in the mail on Monday. I'd forgotten I had added it to my Zooba list. I don't know when I'll get to it, but I am rally looking forward to reading it. I am glad you enjoyed it!

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  14. Oooh, I don't know, I get scared so easily! Still, this book has been on my wishlist pretty much ever since it was published.

    Also: I am reading a body language book,and that showing your thumb thing he's doing in the photo means something. I think it means he's cocky. Over-confident. As I would be if my father were a zillionaire and I could get a publishing contract just by saying I wanted one. And if I were that hot. ;)

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  15. I love this one too. Great review!

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  16. In that picture, Joe Hill looks disturbingly like a slightly taller version of one of my favourite college profesors! And he was a creative writing guy as well. Hmmm....

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  17. Amanda, you definitely need an Austen'esque hero. I grabbed anything close by including chair arms, B., and if I had a dog I'm sure it would've hid under the furniture.

    Lit. Feline, I would definitely recommend bumping it up to the top of the pile. It's a really quick read.

    LOL, Dewey! One thing I actually like about him is that he used a different last name. His first book was published by a small press in England because he didn't hit publisher paydirt in the US until Heart-Shaped Box. Ahhh, adversity. Makes him even HOTTER. Rawwwr!

    Thanks, Nymeth!

    Eva, I don't think I could've handled a prof that looks like him. I had one hot professor in college, and my stomach churned every day before class. And I got most of the answers wrong from nervousness.

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  18. Sounds like a tasty read Andi and you h'ain't steered me wrong yet. I may have a look around for it.

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  19. A bunch of people read this at the end of last year for the RIP challenge as well and everyone has raved about it. I got a copy and am just looking for the time to read it now! It sounds pretty cool and I like that you think it managed to overcome it's flaws.

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  20. This one has sounded good on every site that I've seen a review. I had to laugh at myself and how I am sometimes out of touch as I had no idea until the other day that he is Stephen King's son.

    I want to read his short story book, 20th Century Ghosts sometime this year.

    Very nice job of not spoiling anything! ;)

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  21. I'll look forward to your thoughts on it when you get a chance to gobble it down, Rhinoa. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Carl, thanks! I can't WAIT to read 20th Century Ghosts. I hardly ever buy books in hardcover, but it's darn near impossible not to run out and snap up a copy of it.

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