Friday, April 22, 2011

Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill (Audio)




I just had an "I'll be damned" moment. Not to be confused with an "oh wow" moment or an "ah-ha moment". This was bigger. Now don't judge me, because I don't get out much. But did you know that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son? And here I thought I was the world's biggest fan of Uncle Stevie, and I didn't even know his son was an author? I should be shamed.

But what was weird was that as I finished "Heart-Shaped Box", I was thinking that this story wasn't just creepy, but Stephen King creepy. Now I get it. Uncle Stevie and his spawn are drinking the same water.

Synopsis: Judas Coyne is an aging rock star who has left a trail of women in his wake, has a record of drug abuse, collects macabre artifacts, and loves a fast hot rod. (Think James Hetfield from Metallica, beard, tats and all.)




Jude is enticed to buy a ghost from an online auction website to add to his twisted little collection of things. The ghost is "attached" to an old suit, which arrives in the mail in a heart-shaped box. Jude doesn't give it much thought, until he actually sees an old man in his house, and the man begins to suggest that Jude kill his current live-in girlfriend and himself. Even more frightening, Jude finds himself wanting to obey.

After a bit of research, Jude discovers that he is being haunted by the ghost of an ex-girlfriend's step-father, who in life, was a hypnotist. The girl committed suicide, presumably because Coyne dumped her, and the dead dude has come back for some seriously sadistic revenge.

So Coyne, his girlfriend and his dogs jump in his souped-up Mustang and drive, partly to try to escape the homicidal ghost (which doesn't work of course), and partly to confront ghosts from their own past that threaten to bring them down.

My thoughts: I was practically born and raised on Uncle Stevie's brand of creepiness, so I am more than capable to deal with stories of this nature. But Hill seems to have learned from the best (and for the record, holds his own just fine), and gave the hairs on the back of my neck a run for their money.

For all of you out there that pooh-pooh anything with a little supernatural in it, trust me when I say that this is fairly hard core and the furthest thing from silly. I would be very much like pooh-poohing The Shining, which is also full of phantoms with evil intentions, and who would do that? I know I don't want the thing in room 217 to get me, thanks.

The writing itself is adequate and readable. What sets this story apart, aside from its level of sinister, are the vivid characters. Who ever writes about a protagonist like this one, really? He has your typical track record, one that makes you feel slimy, but was also sympathetic because of the abuses he suffered as a youth. And, sometimes, he actually showed signs of humanity. His girlfriend was pierced and goth, but also had her own set of baggage and I wanted the best for her. All of the characters, even the ghost, were distinct and three-dimensional.

The plot was three-dimensional as well. Hill digs into topics of sexual abuse, mental illness, and the effect these things have on a person's life. I should mention that there are some graphic language and themes, and while it is isn't gratuitous, there was enough to make my eyes pop a couple times.

Overall, a thoroughly entertaining and deliciously creepy read, and very impressive for a debut.

A few words about the audio production: The narrator for this production was Stephen Lang, who was new to me. His work seems to touch all genres, but he was cast perfectly for this particular role, and was a most excellent listen. In the wrong hands, this audio could have been an epic fail, but Lang was masterful.

4.5 out of 5 stars







26 comments:

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

Dude! Really! I had no idea.It's great that he has made such a good name for himself. I know that some must attribute that to his dad, but there must be plenty of people who are clueless. I haven't read anything by him, but I hear how good he is. It's only a matter of time before I pick something up.

caite said...

I just read another review of this one somewhere and just got it out of the library and it is next on my "Read Me" pile. glad to know that liked it so much!

Beth F said...

I knew about Joe Hill's parentage, and thus I know I'll never read him. Some things are just too creepy for me.

Kay said...

I did know that Joe Hill was Stephen King's son. I had not seen a picture of him though. He has his Dad's eyes I think.

I've meant to read some of Joe's books for a while because I too read King's books way back when. I still remember how scared I was in my college dorm the night I was reading SALEM'S LOT. I heard something outside the window and was sure it was a vampire scratching to come in. LOL

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Wow, what a surprise! (about his being the son). But seriously, I would lose the thing on the chin...

Zibilee said...

After reading Horns, I really want to get the chance to read this one as well. I have only heard good things about Hill's books, and judging from your review, I think I am really going to like this one. Thanks for your great review. This book is right up mt alley, I think!

Anita said...

Great review, but honestly, I get scared to easily to read Stephen King books, so I doubt juniors book would work for me, ha ha.
I didn't know about the connection either.

Anna said...

I knew he was Stephen King's son, so I've been curious about this book. I like creepy, so on my to-read list it goes!

Darlene said...

I did know that he was King's son and I did try to read this one but didn't really like it. It could have just been that I read it at the wrong time though as many people have really liked it. I may give it a try again one day.

heidenkind said...

Don't know about the book, but that goatee is super-scary.

bermudaonion said...

I read in someone else's review that Hill is King's son, so I did know that. That's probably why I've avoided his books - I'm a big chicken!!

Amy said...

I hd absolutely no idea that Joe Hill was related in any way to Stephen King. Wow, imagine being related to such a well-knwn & accomplished author?

Heart-Shaped Box sure sounds creepy! I appreciate you putting to rest concerns about the fantastical aspect of this book. I'm not a fan of too much of that but I love The Shining!
I like the sound of the characters and the plot's pretty intriguing. It's been a while since I read a good thriller. Thanks for directing me to one!

Kate said...

I did know, but not right away. I had been interested and bought 20th Century Ghost (amazing read, btw!) before I found out, but was super happy to discover that there's another generation of hella talented writing in that family! I'm especially glad that Hill inherited his dad's command of a short story, since it's hard to find good, creepy and scary shorts. There are definite style differences, but Hill is quickly becoming a new favorite of mine, I really loved Horns. One of these days I'm going to have to pick up a Tabitha King book, and if it's indeed the water they're drinking, here's to moving to Maine!

Kathleen said...

This is on my list and I DID know that Joe Hill was Stephen King's son but I wouldn't feel too bad about not knowing that. I think he has made a concerted effort to not publicize that too much or at least he did when he first started out.

Ti said...

You and I discussed the King thing on FB recently. Blew my mind when I first found out. Mainly because a friend of mind has been trying to get me to read Hill's books in like, forever and I was so hesitant to do so.

I am much more willing to do so now, but can't find the time. This one is on my list though.

Jenny said...

Ok, you and Heather have convinced me that I need to read one of his books!! (And yes, I did know, heheh) ;)

Jenny said...

Oh but also, is that really a picture of him?? It doesn't look anything like the other pics I've seen of him where he looks exactly like his dad..

C.B. James said...

I second your praise for Heart-Shaped Box. It's an excellent book. A thriller that delivers the promised thrills as well as the best of his father's work.

But, seriously. You didn't know?

;-)

Michelle said...

I had no idea when I read this two years ago but was quickly informed of the relationship during my review. I agree that this is one creepy book. I'm not a horror fan but definitely enjoyed this one, even if it did make me uncomfortable to read before bed!

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

I read this quite some time ago, I had no clue he is the son of well you know. LOL Interesting.

Melody said...

I read this book awhile back and think it was real creepy. Looking forward to reading the rest of his books.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This is definitely one on the "to listen" list! I think it might be even creepier that way!

Melissa said...

I had an ARC of this forever ago and just didn't get into it. Maybe it was my mood, but King has never really been for me either. If I do give it another try I will go for the audio!

Avid Reader said...

I knew he was King's son, but to be honest that made me skeptical of the book. I may have to check it out now, it sounds good.

Teacher/Learner said...

I have this on my bookshelf and I am determined to get to it over the summer. I did know about him being Stephen King's son prior to picking it up. I can't say that it's my #1 reason for wanting to read this--Joe Hill is an accomplished author in his own right--but as a huge SK fan, I have to say it played a small part ;)

Jenners said...

I think he wanted to be judged on his own outside of his father's rather considerable shadow but when you hear it, it just makes so much sense doesn't it? I remember reading this a few years back and thinking it was a freaky...and very King-ish book...in a good way!