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Heart-Shaped Box: 03/16/10
Here's a bit of advice: don't read Joe Hill on the heels of finishing a Stephen King book. Yes, I knew that Hill is King's son going into this reading venture. I did it anyway. See I had just finished Duma Key and the big showdown involves in part, a heart-shaped box. It piqued my curiosity and so I went from Duma Key right into Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. Bad idea.
The basic plot is this: Judas Coyne collects things with bad mojo. He decides to buy a ghost off eBay. It comes with a nasty told suit and a heart shaped box. Of course, the ghost is real. Jude isn't some random schmuck stuck with the ghost; no he was chosen for an act of revenge.
Here's where I started to lose interest. The problem is Hill's book reads like a Japanese vengeance ghost horror plot wrapped up to look like a Stephen King book. I realize he comes by that wrapping naturally and maybe he likes Japanese horror (I have no clue if he does or doesn't). He's decided to write horror and be accepted on his own merits as an author (hence the different last name) but his debut novel doesn't get far enough away stylistically from his father's writing to stand up on its own.
King's writing works for me because his protagonists are usually likeable. They might be drunk SOB's like the writer in The Shining but their broken personalities are well established and well explained. Hill tries to explain Judas's dark past and make him a likeable protagonist but it doesn't work (for me). The explanation isn't solid enough while at the same time Jude isn't a despicable enough character to be a more typical horror lead.
Then there's the ghost. He seems to be making up the rules as he goes along. First he's just sort of stinky and annoying. Then he's trying to get Jude to off himself. When that doesn't work he decides to go after loved ones. Wait... that sounds like the plot of Dumas Key except without the tropical setting or the trippy art work. See the problem?
Joe Hill has a new book out, called Horns. I haven't read it. I'm not rushing out to read it but I might check it out if I see it at the library.
Comment #1: Tuesday, March, 16, 2010 at 22:27:06
I have this book, but I haven't read it yet. I'll make sure I don't read it around the same time I read one of his dad's books! Good review!
Comment #2: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 21:58:22
Thanks. Happy reading!
Comment #3: Monday, March, 29, 2010 at 18:46:56
That is a pretty apt review of this book. I liked it though, despite its flaws.
Thank for linking my blog btw!
Comment #4: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 11:30:48
I think I would have liked it more if I hadn't just read Duma Key.