Sesana's Reviews > Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
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Nov 10, 11

bookshelves: contemporary, fantasy, ghosts, abuse, horror
Read in November, 2011

It's pretty much common knowledge now that Joe Hill is Joseph King, son of Stephen King. I haven't read King in probably more than a decade, but from my memory, Hill has a similar style, all sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and gross stuff. Ok, maybe not so much with the drugs, though there are some really trippy sections.

Jude (a sort of all-purpose metal god of yore) buys the suit of a dead man from an online auction because the seller claims it will come with a ghost. He gets far more than he bargained for. This is where we start in the story, and we keep digging deeper into motivations and the past until we find a very different story. Jude also grows and develops as a character, not so much because he personally changes (though he does) but because the reader comes to understand him more.

Ok, but is it scary? Actually, yes. The dead man, equipped as he is with the power of hypnosis and the unshakeably firm conviction that anything he does is right, makes for a frightening (and, in personality, entirely believable) antagonist. Take out the ghosts and hypnosis, and it's a completely plausible story. That, I think, is what makes it so frightening.

I mentioned sex and gross out, the two things that kept me from connecting with Hell House. But here, they were used more sparingly, and treated in a far less sensational way. Still, my least favorite bits of the book. Gore is not a requirement to make a book or movie terrifying, and I feel like its often used as a crutch. It's at least vaguely justifiable here: it wouldn't be the same story without the wounds Jude receives, but there is at least one sequence (Mary Beth watching Jude's video late at night, for those who read it already) which felt gratuitous to me while I was reading it.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Wendy Darling I've had this book forever, so I'm glad to hear it's good! I guess I should read it soon, hah. Nicely reviewed. :)


Sesana Thanks! It's gotten a reputation for being a really scary book, and I think it lives up to it.


Eric Interesting, I thought the scene with Mary Beth watching the video was actually the scariest and most revealing part of the book. That's when I understood that Craddock had the desire and ability to humiliate and degrade them before...you know. Now it's not just a matter of survival, it's also about hanging onto their humanity. (Great review, btw.)


Sesana Zedsdead wrote: "Interesting, I thought the scene with Mary Beth watching the video was actually the scariest and most revealing part of the book. That's when I understood that Craddock had the desire and ability ..."

That's a very good point. And it certainly did have that effect on me, I suppose to the point that it became deeply unpleasant to read.

And thanks!


Brandy Dempster I did not know he was kings son. Interesting


Sesana And a chip off the old block in his writing.


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