By Joe Hill
A record six books completed in a single month! Mind you, most of ‘em were fairly lite (including this one), but there were previous years where I’d be lucky to read six in as many months.
Heart-Shaped Box I finished in about 3 days. To quote Mount Benson, Joe Hill’s debut novel is indeed like Stephen King-lite (MB also provides a nicely pithy synopsis ). Supposedly marketed as a modern-day ghost story, I hardly found it scary, or even creepy (especially if you compare it to Peter Straub’s genuinely spine-chilling 1979 novel Ghost Story). But it did make a pretty good supernatural thriller, with a couple of surprising twists, a decent buildup and well-drawn characters.
It’s easy at first not to be sympathetic to the aging, self-absorbed heavy metal rocker, Judas Coyne, and his mouthy Goth girlfriend, Georgia/Marybeth (who’s young enough to be his daughter). And it’s easy to dismiss the ghost story gambit since the mystery of the haunting is revealed quite early on. Hill is a competent enough writer to draw you into his narrative and get you to eventually relate to his protagonists. I like how Georgia/Marybeth gets all tough and assertive when things get crazy. In many ways, she’s psychologically stronger than her ol' beau, though she becomes a little self-sacrificingly clichéd towards the end.
I didn’t realize until the person who lent me the book pointed out to me that Joe Hill also wrote the compelling Lovecraftian horror comic, Locke and Key. Though I wasn’t wowed by Heart-Shaped Box , it was still an engaging page-turner. Hill definitely has more Gothic sensibilities than his dad, and if anyone else ever lends me his other stuff, such as 20th Century Ghosts, I would not hesitate to check that out too.