Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

20 04 2008

Last year sometime, I threw up a post about Joe Hill. It was about him being the son of Stephen King (not the labor guy or the guy that used to work for John Tanner.)

I have been in a funk for about a month so I decided to set ye olde laptop aside and read his debut book called Heart Shaped Box yesterday. I really needed not to think about things for awhile and so I decided to go back to that well-worn practice of actually picking up paper bound in glue and giving it a whirl.

I’m glad I did.

Spoilers after the jump if you haven’t read it:

First of all, I read fast. I finished it in about three hours as it’s not a very long novel.

Now, I love me some creepy stuff. And I have to tell you, the book went beyond damned creepy. It was what I like to call a fast food read, which it is, but some of the visuals created in Hill’s book were really messed up. It’s the kind of messed up that when you put the book aside, it makes you go back and pick it up as you ask yourself, what the hell.

I’m not afraid of much. Stupid government, the red button in Dick Cheney’s line of view and cave crickets, but the idea of malevolent ghosts just sitting around messing with the lead characters in the early pages of the book was truly eerie. Just sitting there with the ominous tone of “I’m going to kill you and there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it, but before that, I’m going to terrify and torture you.”

This ghost was one bad ass.

And it starts out strong and doesn’t let up. Hill was really inspired at taking an unlikeable character and making me feel empathy with him. He really is an unapologetic bastard, but the writing was good enough for him to grow and for me to realize two-thirds of the way into the book that he was so wounded emotionally that it was his own armor. It was what he needed to survive.

Back to the ghosts, and as a huge fan of GhostHunters, I don’t think Grant or Jason would want to mess with this billy-bad ass specter.

The good thing about this novel was how it incorporated the apathy about pop culture and the “brand” the lead character, Jude Cole, has created as an aging rock star who is so bored out of his mind that he collects morbid items not for his own enjoyment but to create more of a legend. His last CD was years ago. He’s 54-years-old and he honestly is lost and you feel it. Art from John Wayne Gacy (first page, I didn’t spoil it for you), Aleister Crowley documents, a snuff film (given to him by an adoring fan but he didn’t destroy it) and a cannibal cookbook sit in his private, yet not so private, collection because it’s about the myth as much as anything. Buying a ghost off the Internet seemed like a fine idea when it’s presented to him. Of course, he doesn’t believe any of this but you don’t know that for awhile, it’s part of his “brand” and his mythology he’s created as the driving force behind his band which seems loosely based on Metallica.

It’s about how to keep the money flowing in (which he has an overabundance of) and how when he “feeds” his fan base, they in return “feed” him back.

But the thing I loved most was the use of animal spirits in the novel. Ghosts apparently don’t like dogs. Dogs don’t like ghosts. And the way that this is written is absolutely exquisite. I really think I loved this part most of all.

In Joe Hill’s world, dogs will protect you from the monsters.

I won’t go any further but I will say I’ve been in a funk. Why a ghost story would cheer me up, I have no idea, but it did. It’s not Dickens, but I don’t dig Dickens anyway. Just not my thing.

I liked it.

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4 responses

20 04 2008
Tommy

Actually one of the books I’m going to read this week…funny how coincidence works….

21 04 2008
Barry

…and I just started it last week. Weird! I read in very short chunks of time here and there so only about 1/3 through it.

21 04 2008
newscoma

I enjoyed it immensely.

21 04 2008
deb

I read it a while back and liked it, too. I’ve been wanting to read his collection of ghost stories that’s out now but I think I’ll wait until it’s out in paperback.

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