Thursday, October 30, 2008

Heart Shaped Box

by Joe Hill

Apparently this book has been quite a sensation but I had never heard of it, or Stephen King’s son, until I starting poking around the RIP challenge reviews from last year and peoples book lists for this year. As I was looking for something light and fun in audio to take with me on a trip, I thought this would be perfect and it certainly fit the bill. It is the story of an aging Rock Star, Jude Coyne who buys a ghost on the internet for his macabre collection. Needless to say the dead man’s suit that arrives actually does bring with it a ghost and Jude gets a lot more than he bargained for.

I was pleasantly surprised that this was not just the run of the mill ghost story. What I liked most about the story was that it was so character driven. When the story opens Jude and his much younger girl friend of the moment, whom he calls Georgia, seem unappealing and one dimensional. Jude seems to be the stereotype of the self absorbed aging retired rock star and Georgia seems to be a Goth bimbo rock band groupy. As the book develops however these two characters emerge as interesting and complex characters as do the ghost himself and his step daughter, a deceased former girlfriend of Jude’s that he called Florida.

I also really liked the fact that while the ghost himself was scary the truly horrific acts of the book were committed by ordinary living people. You cannot say, this is just a ghost story and could never happen in real life because it could be happening in your neighbor’s family right now and you not even know it. (I know that is cryptic if you haven’t read the book but I don’t want to give away to much.)

Essentially, what the book is really about is relationships. Relationships between Jude and his girlfriends, between Jude and his father, between Jude and his dogs and within the ghost’s family. I don’t mean to imply that this is not a page turning horror story with lots of action, suspense and plot twists, because it is, but I was pleasantly surprised that it had a whole other dimension to it as well.

On the negative side, I thought the book could have ended after the climax instead of doing a rather long rap up to let you know what happened to everyone, but that is a common complaint I have with many books. I don’t mind a book not tying up every single loose end. When the plot reaches its natural conclusion I think it should end and let the reader use their imagination as to the aftermath, but that is just me. I know that many people like to know what happened to all the characters.

The other negative was the dogs. I liked the portrayal of the dogs and the important role that they played in the book but (I don’t want to spoil anything) suffice it to say I found a few of the dog scenes disturbing to read. I can read anything about humans but for some reason I am not willing to read about bad things happening to animals and to be honest if I had known that would be in there I probably would not have chosen to read the book. Ever since a child I have refused to even watch movies that involve animals (Bambi’s mom dies!).

Overall, it was an enjoyable page turner with more substance than I expected and I would read more of Joe Hill in the future.

Confession: I downloaded this book as audio and since mine didn’t have an actual cover and I loved the cover that Bride of the Book God had on her review, I decided to use that cover. Much more interesting than the standard mass market cover. Check out the other interesting covers.

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