Henrik's Reviews > Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
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's review
Oct 30, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: horror
Recommended for: those wanting a ghost story in a modern setting, with odd characters
Read in November, 2008 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Certainly a very nice ghost story. I would probably have given it 5 stars if not for the mediocre ending.

This novel has been received very differently, by readers and reviewers alike. Some praise it very highly, some find it a bore. I guess that's inevitable. In my opinion it's basically a matter of taste and what you expect.

As a rule I don't much like ghost stories; in my opinion that's an outdated and way too well-beaten a track... Which, indeed, it is most of the time. So if a writer wants to write such a story, it better have some originality to it!

One way is to actually cook up some new, strange form on the theme of "ghostlihood"--as Peter Straub does so tremendously succesfully in his Ghost Story; another way is to cook up a plot that, while staying within the classic boundaries of "ghostlihood", has twists and a cast of characters out of what we're used to. Straub does the latter too--and so does Hill.

No, the main protagonist--a heavy metal star in his 50s--is not very likeable... But that actually makes him more interesting than many a classic "good guy", the more so as his past and way of thinking is unravelled throughout the story, adding a touch of sympathy for him.

The same goes for the main "heroine" (or, should I say, "heroines"?). Well placed within the milieu that Jude (the protagonist) lives in, I think, and with a believeable background and character drive as well.

The story centers around Jude unfortunately acquiring a suit from a dead person who then begins haunting him and wanting him to kill people around him (at times rather obscenely), the young Goth girl he currently lives with & one he used to live with, and a "roadtrip" in a desperate attempt to prevent the demands of the dark ghost, inevitably unravelling both Jude's past (to some extend explaining why he is so emotionally detached from other people, using them) and the ghost's dark history (a rather shocking turn of event, I must say). And it works like a (admittedly, gritty) charm, I think.

Unfortunately, the actual climax of the story--the turn of events where the "final battle" is sort of completed--sounded hollow to me. Okay, taken verbatim it makes sense that he creates a "door" where help can come and step in--but it still lacked a more solid raison that the solution was exactly what the protagonist ends up doing. Maybe I just missed clues earlier on, but as it is I felt a little cheated...

Other than that I greatly enjoyed it, and will recommend it. The twists of the plot and the cast of characters makes it interesting enough:-)

Purchased in Ubud, Bali (Indonesia), October 2008.
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Reading Progress

11/18/2008 page 17
11/21/2008 page 86
23.5% "So far it's pretty a-okay..."
11/25/2008 page 283
77.32% "So far still a good yearn:-)"
11/26/2008 page 324
88.52% "Almost there now!;-)"
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Christina (new)

Christina Sounds scary! Not for me, I think. He's Stephen King's son, right?

Henrik Yeps, that's Stephen King's son. IIRC that wasn't known until after the book turned into a bestseller. Didn't want people to buy it simply because he was a "the King"s son;-)

message 3: by Christina (new)

Christina Of course - he wants to show he can make it on his own... must be cool to make it without his father's help.

message 4: by Christina (new)

Christina I guess if I want to read a ghost story, I'll go for the Peter Straub instead...

Henrik Well, at least if you want to read a truly original ghost story. Hill's story is a very good read too... But not in the same league as Straub's.

message 6: by Christina (new)

Christina No ... that's what I gathered from your reviews. And since I'm not that much into ghost stories, I want the best if I'm going to read one :-)

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