Joe Hill is one of the sons of Stephen King. I just found out, so, that’s not why I picked the book. [I picked it because I like horror stories and it had a blurb by Neil Gaiman.] And it’s not like he writes like his father, so you don’t read the novel and are all like “oh, he tries to copy Stephen King”.
Right, back to the topic at hand.
Heart-Shaped Box is the story of Judas Coyne, an ageing rock star [think a stronger, younger today Ozzy Osbourne], who buys a ghost over the internet for his collection of the occult. Unfortunately, it’s not the nice variety of ghost and things start to get out of hand.
The book is scary and gripping and well written. His style is very movie-like [and I, apparently, was not the only one to pick this up].
Jude and Georgia/Marybeth are great characters, very real. You really want them to survive, to win. And both their stories, but especially Jude’s, are like a text book example [in a good way] for character development.
Hill manages to include almost every kind of abuse into his story. At least, that’s what it feels like. Let me tell you, people are evil.
Unfortunately, Hill has a bit of a tendency to slip into clichés [the grandmother, goths in general, the assistant] and the ending almost ruins the whole thing.
They need to make a door to let the ghost of Jude’s ex defeat the murderous ghost, who happens to be her father. And how do they make the door? Jude paints it in blood. And the thing won’t open until he paints it a doorknob.
And I know I have seen that before. [I’m thinking it was in Beetle Juice, but I’m not sure.] Things like that bug me. A lot. Think of your own solutions! And if you don’t, at least don’t use the same twists.
And then the good light that comes to destroy the bad ghost, that was a tad too much as well.
But that was not the only thing that bothered me about the ending. It all seemed so strained.
Another detail that made me smirk more than it actually bothered me, was the product placement for ebay. to clarify: I don’t know if Hill got paid for it or not, but it was always like “Oh, if I had bought this ghost on ebay, I could send it back now”.
But none of this could change that the first 350 pages of the book were great, the ghost(s) really scary and that altogether, I liked the book.
[And maybe Joe Hill and Stephen King have more in common – Stephen King’s endings are usually the weakest thing about his books as well. ;)]