Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill
With his debut novel, Joe Hill has crafted an honestly scary story that begins with an aging rock star named Jude responding to an internet offer to purchase a ghost which has been put up for bid at an auction website (not eBay). When the ghost begins to actively haunt Jude we are thrust into a wild and scary story dealing with Jude’s response to the haunting and his need to get rid of the ghost messing with Jude and his girlfriend.
The descriptions of ghosts in Heart-Shaped Box has a bit of a Japanese horror feel to it (consider The Ring or The Grudge), and this otherwordly creepiness is what is more effective. The reader can feel a chill when Jude is haunted. There are short scenes that feel like the trailers to horror movies when something flashes in and out of view, and that’s what Hill gets across here. The fear and the alien-ness of the haunt. This is no case for TAPS.
While Joe Hill was acclaimed for his short fiction before this, Heart-Shaped Box was his first foray into novel length fiction and he proves more than capable. The storytelling is straightforward and Hill lays his cards on the table from the start. He reveals what is necessary when it is necessary, creates believable characters, and delivers the scary. A reader could not ask for more, and Hill should only get better which each subsequent novel.
Not to stress Joe Hill’s literary heritage, but he has delivered a much stronger debut novel than his father did (Stephen King – Carrie) and this bodes will for his career. Joe Hill is his own writer, though, and the choice not go with the last name of King while writing in the same genre only serves to emphasize this more. Joe Hill is his own writer with his own voice, and from the looks of Heart-Shaped Box, it is a damn strong one. He can stand on his own, and does so. He’s got me hooked.