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Now I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but 'Heart Shaped Box' by Joe Hill has an incredibly striking front cover. The image along with the dark colours that are used on the cover push to the forefront the notion of a thrilling, yet chilling read. This novel certainly lives up to these expectations with its incredible twists and turns throughout.
To start with, the reader is introduced to the main character 'Jude Coyne' and his wacky ways. Jude's character is constructed very well throughout the novel, so much so, that the reader can empathise with him when everything starts to go wrong. The reader discovers that curiosity almost got the better of Jude because of his bizarre interests.
Joe Hill writes with incredible precision and attention grabbing detail that it makes the reader keep turning the pages to see what is going to happen next. The plot is based on a simple idea that snowballs and builds up momentum until all is resolved at the end of the novel.
In my opinion, this book is incredibly unique because it describes one very simple act: buying a ghost on the internet. Joe Hill writes with such prowess that you find yourself completely immersed in an otherwise ludicrous idea of buying a ghost. This book grips you from start to finish and is a must read for all horror fiction fans.
Today I'd like to review the novel ,,Heart-Shaped Box" by Joel Hill.
I picked this book up after I saw an interview with Gerard Way, singer of my favourite Band My Chemical Romance. In the interview he was asked what he was reading right now and he mentioned this book. He also said a thing or two about the plot and I was interested straight away! Since the plot sounded exciting and I like to indulge in idol worship a bit by doing and reading what G. Way does, I picked the novel up at Waterstones as soon as I could.
The fact that is wasn't too expensive also helped with deciding on my purchase.
Jude is an aging rockstar a little over fifty,living in a farm-like house. He isn't making much music anymore, but he and his bands used to be the stars of the metal scene. Jude shares his home with is personal assistant Danny and his girlfriend Marybeth, whom he refers to as Georgia. Jude has had quite a few ladies in his life after his wife left him, naming each ofter the state they come from.
When Jude's PA recieves a link to an auction selling a ghost, Jude is intrigued. His fans have always been giving him occult objects as presents and the "ghost" might be a nice addition to his collection. At this pont, Jude does not really believe in the ghost, but tells his PA to purchase it anyway.
After a while, a package arrives. It contains a big, heart-shaped box with an old suit that his supposed to carry the seller's stepfather's ghost. Things stay quite with the exception of Georgia pinching her finger with a needle coming from the suit.
And then, things start to go weird. Jude feels uneasy, the suit is emitting a scary scent and finally, Jude starts to see the ghost that came with the suit. After a while, Jude realizes the ghost is part of the family of Anna, a girl he once had living with him. She had been depressed and shizoid and Jude had to send her back to her family when living with her became unbearable. He back then and recieved the news that Anna had killed herself after she had written him many letters and it seems like the ghost has come to torture Jude for driving Anna into suicide. And to Jude's dismay, the ghost was a mentalist who was terribly good at creeping into people's brains.
Jude was planning to let his girlfriend Georgia go soon - but when staying in the house and being attacked by the ghost becames unbearable, Jude takes her and his dogs on a road trip to get away from the evil spirit.
Things are not what they seem and the trip reveals things Jude would never have dreamed of!
My thoughts on it
I liked the whole old-rockstar-theme to begin with! The novel has surprised me with it's captivating narration and vivid images. I've never read a horror book before so I wasn't sure if I would like it, but I really did. The characters are interesting from the very beginning and you find out exciting and curious things about each of them as the book goes on. It never gets boring, there was not a single part that dragged on.
You're worried for Jude and find a depht in him that you wouldn't think of at first. The same goes for Georgia. At first you feel only a bit of sympathy for the character, but you'll find yourself fearing for them sooner than you think. The occult elements in the book are strong, but not ridiculously so. It is not much discussed how the ghost could be there and how all this happens - Jude and Georgia just accept it at same point and rather busy themselves with thinking up ways to survive.
The story takes many exciting twists and turns that I didn't expect and I think that is what makes it an exciting read!
The violence is strong, but not sickingly soon. But hey, it's a horror novel after all!
I have the paperback edition, whcih was 5.99!
At Amazon.co.uk you can purchase it for £4.55.
I recommend this book to people who like ghost stories and also find the whole rock star thing interesting. It's what gives the book this extra bit of excitement and since I really love music, it made the novel more interesting. The characters are interesting and feel real, their stories are touching and exciting. This was defenitely a great read!
I first heard of Joe Hill when I picked up his second novel, Horns, in the library simply because I liked the cover. I know, I know - the one thing you should never do but sometimes it pays off and I really enjoyed the weird story of a tormented guy who gradually turns into the devil. It was an unusual read, dark in places somewhere between horror and fantasy but with such a vivid picture painted you could believe the events actually happened. At the time I was unaware he author had written any more until I came across what I now know to be Hill's first novel, Heart Shaped Box, in a bookshop bargain bin. I got straight into it and could not put it down, however this was a much creepier book, definitely one to be classed as horror, which is usually a genre I don't venture into.
Further intrigued and wanting to read more, I looked into this author called Joe Hill and discovered he was none other than the son of Stephen King. It all made sense! Joe did not want to use has surname on his novels as he wanted to establish himself off his own back and not because of his relatives. Well it worked with me, I was clueless and in actual fact, I probably would not had read the novels had I'd known. I much prefer 'Hill's' worked to that of his father.
Sadly, other than a collection of short stories Joe Hill has only published these two novels, but there is apparently another in the pipeline. I'm looking forward to it!
About Heart Shaped Box
I did it backwards but if you fancy giving Joe Hill's work a go, best to start at the beginning. Heart Shaped Box was first published in early 2007 and won Hill the Bram Stoker Award for best first novel. Unsurprisingly, the film rights have already been bought by Warner Bros and a big screen adaptation is being scripted. I have a few mixed feelings about this as a mediocre film can ruin my memory of a good book.
The title, as rock fans will have picked up on shares it's name with a Nirvana song and this is no coincidence. Heart Shaped Box follows the character Judas Coyne, a one time huge rock star with a passion for collecting unusual objects. How could this filthy rich lover of the dark and bizarre turn down the change to buy a ghost when he sees a advert posted online? The perfect addition to his collection surely?
I don't think I'm giving away any spoilers when I tell you when the ghost arrives it's no Casper the friendly ghost. Cue a series of chilling encounters with the Coyne house's new resident and a excellent fast paced cat and mouse chase towards the climax.
The plot has many twists and turns and I won't spoil anything, though what I will say is that if you are of a nervous disposition I wouldn't read it before bed! Hill is very talented as creating a chilling atmosphere and you could quite easily believe the ghost is sitting beside you as you read. Set in America in the modern day, it mixes fantasy and reality so cleverly that I could happily (or perhaps unhappily) believe every word was true.
Judas Coyne is the central character and I began reading with little care for him but as the book progresses I was with him all the way. The bearded ageing one time rock star who lives on his own with few friends makes an unlikely hero, but that he is. Complimented beautifully by his much younger goth girlfriend who brings out the womaniser's softer side and makes him a much more likeable character when she is introduced to the story. On the other side there's Craddock, the dead man who Coyne 'bought.' He is every bit the spine chilling creepy old man, described as tall thin wearing a Johnny Cash style suit and a fedora. If anyone has seen the Johnny Depp film Secret Window, I very much pictured a character not unlike the villain Shooter. (If you haven't seen it forget that last bit.)
Hill's characters are everything I could want. They contrast brilliantly, and I could picture them all quite clearly (another reason why I'm unsure about seeing a film adaptation.) Being based around a musician there are many references to Johnny Cash, Nirvana of course, Aerosmith, Foo Fighters.. even Coyne's dogs are named Angus and Bon! This I think also helps the reader get a better understanding of Coyne the rock star but also adds to bring this surreal story right into the real world.
This isn't a badly written book, but it's not a challenge. That said, without using endless metaphors and flowery language, Hill still manages to create great atmosphere, suspense, tension, relief and of course horror. There was nothing that tripped me up and it was a twisty yet easy to follow plot. I romped through the book and I think it was written with speed in mind, Hill want you to read and rush along with the characters as they run out of time...
I recommend this book to anyone who fancies something a little out of the ordinary an doesn't mind feeling a little jumpy. The only criticism I have is that some of the 'encounters' between Judas and Craddock towards the middle are a little long winded and I think a lot could be cut with no effect lost. A talented writer who I'm glad has been recognised for his own merit and I look forward to reading more.
I was given this book by a friend of mine as I had been overheard saying I was bored of all the usualy horror books out there. This has to be one of my best gifts ever.
The story is based around an aging rockstar (Jude) who buys a ghost on the internet after receiving an email about it.
What follows is not your typical 'hiding behind a pillar' haunting storyline.
The ghost is actually the seller's Step-father and is held to this realm by the suit that he intended to be interred in. Being a collector of arcane artefacts and other items of interest Jude purchases the ghost using the 'Buy Now' option assuming it is a gimmick and thinking it will at least be a talking point. However when the suit arrives in the Heart Shaped Box you quickly realise that the suit actually brings a less than happy spirit with it. The ghost is obsessed with revenge and Jude soon comes to the horrifying realisation that he is much more intimately linked with the ghosts recent history than he first thought. He has been set up by someone and now this spirit will not stop until it gets its revenge on Jude and those unfortunate enough to be around him.
This story is not all that scary as you are reading it, it's when you sit and think back over what you have just read that it unnerves you. Although as the book progresses I found a sense of terror building at the nape of my neck with every turn of the page. Thats exactly what this book is, a terror inducing, unnerving, page turner. And I loved every word of it. From the descriptions the author uses to draw you in or his choice of words when explaining how the characters are dealing with things, every word is calculated.
There is specualtion that this book only did well because of the authors family credentials, however unless you are aware of this before picking the book up of the shelf, you would never guess. The writing styles are completely different, this book feels more like an old friend telling you a story around a campfire, instead of a lecture in a classroom.
I would recommend this to any horror fan out there and dare you not to finsih it.
Judas Coyne, a rock star with a reputation to maintain and a morbid fascination of all things weird and wonderful, buys a ghost on the internet. An interesting start to a genuinely scary book.
I've read speculation that this book only did so well because Joe Hill is the son of a famous horror writer, but I wasn't aware of this when I picked up the book. Perhaps this was to my advantage as the book is by no means in the style of Hill's father's work and I wasn't able to make that comparison as I read. The comparison is hardly fair anyway. If I'm honest I found Hill, if anything, easier to read and his plot easier to follow than those of his Dad's more famous works.
I found it an enjoyable read. One of those books that's really hard to put down when you need to. I found the characters interesting - some nice, some repugnant, none simple and two dimensional , and the ideas and the book's mythology was thought provoking at times and fascinating at others. there were some moments that honestly scared me that stayed with me for days!
I've lent it and bought copies of it for several people now. If you like horror and you're ok with some very uncomfortable moments then I would urge you to give this book a go!
Heart-Shaped Box is, at its core, a ghost story for the twenty-first century and the debut novel for writer, Joe Hill; the son of famous author, Stephen King of whom some of you may have heard of. Previous to this, Hill had a collection of short stories published entitled Twentieth Century Ghosts but, having not picked this up, Box was to be my first experience of this new writer who has already begun to garner something of a reputation as being the next big thing in horror! How much of this is due to Hill riding on his father's coat-tails is open to debate but that is a move that has been prompted solely by his publishers, Hill dropping the King from his name in order to establish himself on the basis of his own talent!!
When I first saw his books on the shelves, I had no idea of who Hill was and approached this then with an open mind. It was only when this had been on my to-be-read pile for a while that I learned of the writer's parentage and it is fair to say that this didn't influence my opinion of the novel in the slightest. From the very start of Box, it is clear to all that Hill has a style entirely of his own and anyone expecting a Stephen King-like story is likely to be very disappointed!! In point of fact, the closest comparison author Hill resembles in my mind is to macabre thriller writer, Michael Marshall; himself the author of such novels as The Straw Men and sci-fi satire, Spares which examined the issues of Cloning amongst other subjects.
But I digress....Heart-Shaped Box tells the story of ageing rock star, Jude, whose attention is caught by an auction on an Ebay-style web-site which claims to be offering the buyer possession of a ghost. The ghost is that of the seller's Step-father and is spiritually connected to a mouldering suit that he was supposed to be buried in. Jude has something of a collection of arcane artifacts and bizarre objects d'art that he has gathered over the years which includes a genuine Snuff movie shot in Mexico and so opts for the Buy-It-Now option and parts with a thousand dollars. But when the suit arrives in its heart-shaped box, it brings with it a less than friendly entity that has more than mere haunting on its mind. This is a ghost obsessed with revenge and Jude soon realises that he is intimately connected with events in the ghost's much more recent past. Someone has set him up and now this most malevolent of spirits will not rest until Jude and all those few that surround him are dead by the foulest of means and the evillest of trickery!
What follows is a very cleverly-conceived story that is more of a supernatural thriller than an out-and-out horror. The plot rolls along very nicely, never slowing its pace once until it reaches its inevitable climax. There is far less waffle and descriptive prose than might ordinarily be expected from his dad's work and this is by no means a challenging read being quite light and easy to pick up. But this is by no means a bad thing and establishes this book further as a novel in its own right!
Some of the characters, in fact all of them, are flawed and many of them, if not all, have done things in their life that is difficult to like but, in that sense, this only serves to make the whole thing more believable! Here Hill has written a very engaging novel and quite rightly deserves greater success and at the very least, a fraction of his father's longevity in print!
My version of this novel also comes with a brief sample of Hill's anthology, Twentieth Century Ghosts, and this looks to be an equally impressive tome that I will be picking up shortly given the quality of the example included forthwith. My only complaint about Heart-Shaped Box is that the ending is a little, dare I say it, twee and a little bit of a anti-climax given the strength of everything that precedes it but certainly Hill proves here that he has what it takes to be a strong contender in a genre that is quite literally being swamped of late with tawdry chick-lit disguised under the banner of "Paranormal Romance"!
Here Hill looks to be one to watch and I predict that, in the future, he will be a force to be reckoned with!
I bought this book on its original hard back release for one reason only; the writer. Joe Hill is the son of my favourite author Stephen King and although comparisons between Hill and King would be inevitable I have to say I was left feeling slightly disappointed with the story and feel it only got the accolade and acclaim it received simply because of who wrote it.
The story follows a multi-millionaire rock singer - Judas Coyne - who although is getting on in years likes the finer things in life and the company of his (much younger) girlfriend. He has a taste for the strange and unusual and enjoys collecting memorabilia of a weird and macabre nature. Out of the blue he receives an email asking him if he wants to buy a "haunted suit" and of course having more money that sense he immediately accepts the offer, Its only after it is delivered to his home that strange things start to happen to him, his girlfriend and their dogs.
The ghost makes its presence known immediately and you are dragged into the story at break-neck speed. Hills' writing strength is in gripping you from the start and does narrate very well, delivering some exceptional descriptions of the hauntings that take place and the effects that it has on the characters. It just seems that he can't keep up the momentum and towards the end of the book it feels too long. You do feel genuine concern for the characters and the book can be described as a "page turner" but it really could have benefited from being 100 pages shorter and more concise.
As a first release for a new writer the story is good, but unfortunately for the author he will be compared to his father which is rather unfair on him even though the book at the time was promoted on this fact. He shares similarities with his father in his descriptions and building tension but falls short on actually seeing it through to the end. For me it's a "good-but-not-great" book and I was glad to finish it, although, like everything else though it's your own personal opinion that matters.
Maybe my expectations were too high and I was consciously comparing it to a Stephen King book? Possibly, but I compare all horror stories to Stephen Kings works, so just because this was written by his son didn't alter my view point and the comparisons in my own mind.
All in all, it is a solid read that does provide some tension and excellent descriptive dialogue. It was certainly worth reading and although could have been edited down it was good never the less. For a spooky ghost story it did deliver and was haunting and worked well. Personally from me I would rate it 3/5 Dooyoo stars. Good but not great.
Joe Hill has now released a couple more books so his stories may have improved; I haven't read any more books by him though so can't comment on his later works. The Heart Shaped Box is still available on Amazon for £5.48 and has some good ratings on there as well.
Originally released in May 2008 it is by no means an old book so could make a nice stocking filler for any fans of the supernatural or ghost stories.
Thanks for reading