Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book 22: Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

During one of the comment diversions at Pajiba (I'm starting to think I mention that site quite a lot on here . . .), several people mentioned Heart-Shaped Box as an incredibly good and terrifying novel. Since I do anything Pajiba tells me to, I went and bought a copy.

I was vaguely aware before this that Stephen King's son had entered the family business of writing, and had also heard that his first novel was actually pretty good. I think it is impressive that he was brave enough to follow in his father's foot steps and become not only a writer, but a writer in the same genre since comparsions would of course be inevitable.

Based on this novel, the guy seems genuinely talented, and is not simply casshing in on his father's fame. The basic story is rather simple: Jude, an aging rock star, orders a ghost online to add to his collection of macabre and bizarre items (most of these were gifts from fans). He hasn't had a new record out in a while, but is still incredibly famous, and is living with a young twenty-something year old woman out on his farm in the country. Jude isn't too invested in the relationship, and expects it to end soon, waiting for Georgia (he has a tendency to call women by the State they're from rather than their name) to go the way of all the other groupies.

Soon after the ghost's suit arrives, Jude starts noticing odd things and seeing a man in his house - it turns out the suit and the ghost were the real deal. However, the ghost isn't some benevolent spirit that can't find its way to the light - it, or he, has a vendetta against Jude specifically. Jude's last live-in girlfriend went home to Florida and killed herself, and this ghost is her stepfather. He's a bit angry with Jude.

For the rest of the novel, Jude tries to figure out how to get rid of the ghost. As I said the basic plot is rather simple, but there is more to the ghost and his motivations as the novel progresses, and characters take on greater dimensions. While Georgia starts out as a skinny, young goth woman that's sleeping with a rock star, as the novel progresses, her character is fleshed out - since the novel is written from Jude's perspective, he finally sees beyond his view of Georgia as another disposable girlfriend during the haunting. I think I may have heard this novel was misogynist, but I think it's more that the main character at first is sexist and dismissive in his treatment of women, and this experience helps him see the ways in which he has wronged his past lovers. And honestly, while women may have received the brunt of his inconsiderateness and carelessness, it seems like he treated anyone that attempted to get close to him in the same manner, including his assistant Danny.

While I wouldn't say I was incredibly scared by the novel, it was well-written, and the pacing kept the novel tense. Plus, he didn't run out of steam at the end which is always a plus with scary novels.


The Caustic Critic said...

I remember thinking when I read this that Joe Hill had managed to avoid his father's biggest downfall--the ending was good, rather than being a big disappointment.

Jen K said...

That's exactly what I was thinking but I didn't want to compare him to his father too much. And it seems like King's endings got worse the older he got. Firestarter actually had a decent end that made sense.