Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heart -Shaped Box by Joe Hill


So here's my first foray away from vampires for the RIP challenge, and I'd say that overall it was a successful voyage. Heart-Shaped Box will most probably not make it onto the list of favorite books of the year, but it's a hell of a debut novel for Joe Hill. The book didn't start off all that great for me. It centers around a rock star who is a collector of dark and occult-like objects such as sketches of the seven dwarfs drawn by John Wayne Gacy and a smut film; plays death metal music, and dates goth chicks. So it inherently had a few aspects too it that were just a bit too cliche for my taste while the story was being set up. They were mostly too cliche for my taste because I was a part of this culture as a teen and in my early college days and I guess I'm still there at heart...just don't dress the part. It was just a bit overdone. But once Hill got comfortable with his story and the whole goth, shock thing was dropped and we met our real, vulnerable characters, I really enjoyed the rest of the ride.

Heart-Shaped Box is the story of a rock star with a past. Jude Coyne has lived a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Needless to say he's been with many women throughout his career and has taken to naming some of them after the states that he met them in. His current live-in girlfriend is Georgia and Jude's found more comfort in her than he's found in anyone else in awhile. His only other true relationships are with his two German Shepperds. He hasn't spoken with his father in over 30 years after suffering a horrible childhood with him, two of his best friends and former band mates are dead, and his only other friend is his assistant, but he's more of a secretary than a friend.

So here's the RIP part...As I mentioned before, Jude's a collector of all things macabre and can't turn down an offer of something new to add to his collection. The assistant friend mentioned above one day finds a suit for sale on an eBay-like auction site. Here's the catch - the suit belongs to a dead man who has been haunting the house that it occupies. The auction says that the man never got to wear this suit in his earthly life and will follow the suit wherever it goes. Jude buys the suit for $1000, essentially buying a ghost to add to his collection. Well, Jude gets his ghost. The suit arrives in a black heart-shaped box. Shortly after Jude awakens at night to find a man sitting in his hallway wearing the suit with his eyes scribbled out and swinging a razor blade on a chain. But there's more to the ghost than Jude knows and both his life and Georgia's is at stake...as the cover says "sooner or later the dead catch up..."

I've heard plenty of people say that this novel scared the crap out of them and kept them up all night. I can't say that it did that for me, but that's nothing against the author. I'm rarely truly freaked out by books. This book did have my heart pounding with suspense at certain parts and I was definitely flying through some pages. I tend to not scare easily though. The only things that truly frighten me are "jump out at you" moments, so movies and haunted houses will do the trick! Now there were scenes in this novel that repulsed me (and I guess repulsion is a cousin of fear) and be warned that there are topics that arise in this book that are quite disturbing. But I think that Hill handled everything well, and I have to say that I will be reading Mr. Hill's next novel whenever it is published. I know that he has a collection of short stories coming out soon called 20th Century Ghosts and it is already available in the UK!

*Oh, and a quick note totally unrelated, Lisa Snellings-Clark has Orange Poppets Available!

20 comments:

Quixotic said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Chris! I also know what you mean about not being really scared by it, or by other books. When people ask me how scary a horror or thriller novel is, I tend to draw a blank, as I really rarely have that response, no matter how much I enjoy the story.

I'm still plodding through Lisey's Story...I do not know what it is with me and that book...a Stephen King novel has NEVER taken me so long to read, or required more than one attempt to get started.

DesLily said...

Ohhh, we are reading the same book at the same time!.. but i read slow so you will beat me on this I just know it lol..

Stephanie said...

OK....even though you weren't super-thrilled with it, I'm totally excited to read this one (of course, when my loser brother gives it back to me!) Besides, you just read the CLASSIC Dracula!!

You know...I really think that makes a HUGE difference in how you perceive certain books. WHEN you read them. I can't rememeber off the top of my head what book it was now...but I read it immediately after The Book Thief. Any other time, I think I would have rated it 5*'s, but I didn't because I was comparing it to The Book Thief. (or maybe I'm just the one who can't put things in perspective!)

Man...I'm feeling for you! I watched that game last night. I think Brees has been hanging out with Grossman! He needs to get his confidence back.

Eva said...

oh God! Orange poppets! Orange=my second favourite colour!

Hmmmm....maybe she'll unveil another colour or two and then I can buy multiples again and justify it. :) Or maybe she'll make some Reds!

On the more bookish topic, I was with you at the beginning of Heart-Shaped Box...it's definitely the weakest part of the book. (however, I also thought it was a collection of short stories, so this greatly increased my confusion for a little bit, lol) Unlike you, however, I scare easily, so parts of this book had be scared to open my door!

Rhinoa said...

Damn you and your poppets! I have a red, two blue, a purple and a black one now grr.

Sounds like an interesting book aside from the cliche. I know what you mean about that part, it just isn't shocking as I was a goth/rocker type and still am at heart to a degree.

Carl V. said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it despite the difficult start. It is hard to know when an author is including stuff in a way that works for a novel or is just being pretentious. I know I read alot of complaints about TT Wife in which people complained about her putting in punk references, etc, thinking she was writing out of her element, not knowing that she was including things that she was a true and knowledgeable fan of. Glad it picked up for you.

jenclair said...

Even thinking about the razor blade on a chain scares me. I don't if the rest of the novel would be frightening, but razor blades give me chills.

Nicola said...

Oh, I so want to read this! The Ghost Stories sound really good too.

Debi said...

Though I've heard of this book, I'd never really heard anything "about" it. I gotta say, it sounds sooo good! You're killing me, you know! Wish you'd just go and read some lousy books, so I didn't feel like I needed to go pick them up! (Just kidding, of course.) I actually did go check the bargain books as you suggested, but couldn't find The Historian. Too late, I suppose. But there's always the good old library, right?

Those orange poppets are fabulous!

Chris said...

Quix, lol...ditto. It's really hard for me to get scared by a book. Its sort of funny actually...sometimes I try to scare myself by seeing how gruesome of an image I can create in my head, but it still just doesn't work. Oh well, it was a good book!

I've heard lots of people have the same reaction to Lisey's Story. For some reason it caught me. It may be that it was mainly a love story and I read it right after me and Megan were separated by the storm...who knows. I'm sorry it's not hooking you though :( It's definitely not a normal King book though and I think a big part of why I liked it was that it reminded me of another book I had read by Poppy Z. Brite as a teen called Drawing Blood which ulitimately had the same premise as far as the whole Booyah Moon thing goes, only it was Birdland in Drawing Blood. Who knows...

Deslily, I seriously doubt that I'll beat you on this one ;) I'm only on page 20! lol...I'm a slow reader too. The only reason I've read so much lately is because that's all I've done alllll day, lol.

Stephanie, It's still a great read..I shouldn't say that I wasn't thrilled with it, I've just read so many good books this year! And like you said, I just finished Dracula! But yeah, you'll love it when you get to it. It really was a fun book and a page turner.

I totally agree with you. When you read a book definitely affects your perception of it. For instance, after I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this year, I went through such a reading slum! I think I gave the next two books I read horrible reviews and actually didn't even bother to review one of them, lol...I was just so bummed that the series was over and...come on, nothing can live up to the last book in the Harry Potter series!!

I am SO upset about that game last night :( I really feel bad for Brees though. I like the guy, I really do. And he's a damn good quarterback, but something happened. At first I was blaming it on no one blocking him (which is a problem) but I think he's just letting his nerves get to him too much. He knows this team and really this town (on game night) rests on his shoulders and I think he's getting rattled...the last few minutes of that game were just excruciating. I wasn't even mad, I just felt bad for him. What are we going to do.....

Eva, LOL! You crack me up! I've already ordered mine! I'm surprised she hasn't posted any more reds. Red is the original poppet color and I have 3 of those. They're my favorite still.

I'm glad to hear someone else thought the same way as me regarding Heart Shaped Box :) Once Hill got into the story, though the book really picked up and it was great! Can't wait to see what else he does!

Rhinoa, HAHA! They're addicting, huh? Wait til you start buying her bigger pieces of art, lol!

I'm glad you can relate to the cliche as well ;) It all just gets to be silly when he starts describing these goth girls who obviously just over do it and song titles with really cheesy goth names...yeah, I've known my share of overdramatic goths, lol...and they tend to be annoying, but the majority of the "goth culture" is not that cliche.

Carl, It definitely picked up for me and when it did, it really worked. The rest of the book was great. Now you see, I think that Niffenegger did a great job with her punk references. Particularly when it came to the music. Now, I by no means consider myself a punk, lol...nor have I ever, but I like a lot of the music that she put into her novel and she seemed pretty well educated to me. I loved the scene at the Violent Femmes concert. It was one of my favorite scenes in the book. But a book's not going to work for everyone and every book is going to have it's critics. For me, that aspect worked well, but for others, I can definitely see how it wouldn't...particularly people who are or who have been die hard "punks"...I can see that.

Jenclair, Lol, yeah, razor blades are inherently creepy, aren't they? The razor blade on a chain was actually something that the ghost used as a hypnosis device during his actual life as a hypnotist. It was never actually explained why he used a razor blade instead of the traditional watch on a chain or something like that....

Nicola, I'm sure you'd like this one. Once it got moving, I really enjoyed it and it was quite thrilling. His short stories sound great! I read a review of them somewhere...I think it may have been Bookfool, actually! Anyway, definitely want to get into that one!

Chris said...

Debi, I'll try to find some lousy books for ya ;) The problem with reading my blog is that I tend to like nearly everything I read, lol! Every now and then, maybe 2 or 3 times a year, I'll get a book that's a real dud and I really just can't get into it. But honestly, I usually know I'll feel that way about it before I even start it! It's usually a book that's been sitting on the TBR shelf and I read it just to get it off of there, lol! But I find something I like in just about every book...books are just good things :)

Aren't those little orange poppets cool?! I've already got myself one!

Stephanie said...

Chris, I think somewhere along the line (maybe after the Colts game?) Brees just lost his confidence. He's an incredible qb, he just needs to have a good game. I felt really bad for him too. Like I said, he was seriously looking like Grossman last night! And that is certainly NOT a compliment, especially from a Bears fan!

Chris said...

Steph, I would've loved to have been in the same room as you for the Saints/Bears game last season! Ha! Actually that was a very sad game for us, lol...so maybe not...but on better conditions!

Bookfool said...

There are some incredibly disturbing bits in 20th Century Ghosts, some that made me think, "What was the point of that?", and a few that scared the socks of me. He's an interesting writer with, I think, a lot of promise. It'll be interesting to see what he does in the future.

I've got an Orson Scott Card question, for you. Have you read Wyrms and, if so, what did you think of it on the Card spectrum?

Chris said...

Bookfool, That's how I'm feeling about Hill right now too...an interesting writer with a big future ahead of him! Well put.

Unfortunately, I haven't read Wyrms :( It's one of the few Card books I haven't read, but I know it's one of his earlier works and I'm pretty sure that it tends to be pretty well liked by his fans. But like I said, I haven't read it yet, so I can't give my opinion. I do own a copy though and it's already on a challenge list for 2008! Wish I could be more help...

Ladytink_534 said...

Hi! Like the blog.

I just picked this up from the library! One of my online book groups is reading it next month.

Nymeth said...

Just yesterday I had to decide if I'd be getting this or The Book of Lost Things first. I ended up going with the Book of Lost Things, and now I'm glad, because you said this one starts slowly, and as my reading time is a bit limited I need something that grabs me right away. But I will be reading this one sometime next month, and judging by your review, I think I will enjoy you. Like you, I have rarely truly scared by books, so it not being really scary won't bother me either.

jean pierre said...

very cool review. you really capture what the book's weakness is, while still clearly expressing what you enjoyed about it.

it certainly sounds interesting. but i, like you, would have to get past that goth nonsense first...

Chris said...

Ladytink, Thanks! I hope you enjoy it. It's definitely not a dull read, there's plenty of entertainment to be had. My best advice, if you do find it a little slow at the beginning (which it seems many people do not) keep reading! It really picks up and becomes quite a good story!

Nymeth, I'm SO glad that you picked up Book of Lost Things over this one. The two don't even compare. Heart Shaped Box is fun, and you'll enjoy it when you get to it, but The Book of Lost Things is just phenomenal and you're really in for a treat with that one. At least I hope so, lol...everyone's been putting it on a pedestal for you, I hope it lives up. I have a feeling it will ;)

JP, lol...goth nonsense is right. He could've had the goth element in there and it would've been fine, but it was just overdone. When he stops talking about ridiculous song titles and black nothingness and smeared eyeliner and starts talking about the heart of the characters, all of a sudden the book really picks up! Go figure!

Les said...

Excellent review, Chris! I'm one who was completely creeped out by the first half of the book. Something about a ghost communicating via the radio or tv really sends chills down my spine! Sorry it just wasn't a great read for you.