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.