AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Heart Shaped Box (2007) – Joe Hill

Awesometoberfest 2017

I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since before high school. So when I found out his son, Joe, was writing books, I was initially intrigued but ultimately never sought out the kid’s books.  Then I randomly stumbled upon Horns.  I forget how, but the synopsis intrigued me and I put it on my Amazon list making a mental note to check that book out when I get a chance.  Then, in 2013, the Kindle book went on sale so I pulled the trigger and read it.  And really enjoyed the book.  So at that point, I’m wondering, what Joe Hill book should I read next?

Enter AWESOME-toberfest 2015. I was all set to do Ghosts as the theme and I was deciding between two Joe Hill books; the short story collection 20th Century Ghost and the novel Heart Shaped Box.  However, things happen, things change, and I wind up doing invisible man that year instead.  Flash forward to 2017.  I’m really doing ghosts this time. So, I get a sample on my iPad of both books, read the samples and select, with much fanfare to no one but myself…Heart Shaped Box.

So, what is this book about?  The quick elevator pitch is that aging rock star Jude Coyne likes to collect macabre things.  Among other things he has a used hangman’s noose, a signed witch’s confession from the Salem Witch trials, and even a snuff film.  And when his assistant stumbles across a haunted suit in an online auction, Jude decides on impulse to buy it and it to his collection.  Yet when the suit arrives on his doorstep a few weeks later in a black, heart-shaped box, Jude finds that he’s going to get more than he bargained for.

Heart-Shaped Box was Hill’s first novel, published in 2007.  It’s actually pretty good.  Based on the two novels I’ve read, Hill really knows how to set up the atmosphere of his books’ worlds.  Hill’s books exist in this darker, hyper real existence where crazy things can happen but it still feels 100% real.  Like I can easily picture it and it feels like I’m in that world as well when I’m reading the book.  Hill is also good at setting up his main characters.  Jude, in this novel, isn’t the greatest guy.  He’s an aging rockstar, he collects weird memorabilia, he sleeps with goth girls that are way too young for him.  But by the end of the novel you see how the experiences in the book change him.  He realizes that how he’s been acting is wrong.  He sees the unhealthy patterns he’s following.  We also learn a little about his past that brings his current behaviors into focus.  So by the novel’s climax, the things Jude learns and the behaviors that are changed are earned.

What about the ghost aspects of the novel? Hill realizes his ghost very well.  He is CREEPY.  He has black scribbles over his eyes which somehow makes him more terrifying.  You learn a little bit about the nature of the particular ghost haunting the suit, but it’s not really made clear if that applies to all ghosts. There are clearly some rules for the ghost in the book but you don’t know if the rules apply to all ghosts or just him.

I liked this book.  I actually think I liked it more than Horns.  And don’t get me wrong, I liked Horns.   I really like what I’ve read of Hill’s books so far.  They are dark and atmospheric.  They have interesting characters that follow a good arch throughout.  And the story concepts for his books so far have been interesting and different.

I happen to also have two of Hill’s newer books The Fireman and NOS4A2 which are absolutely going to get read sooner rather than later.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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One Response to “AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Heart Shaped Box (2007) – Joe Hill”

  1. Good review! This book is on my list to read. I loved NOS4A2 but I haven’t read any of Hill’s other books yet.

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