Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

copyright 2007 by Joe Hill

Published and distributed by HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

ISBN 978-0-0619-4489-5, available form Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as other other online bookstores and traditional book retailers in multiple formats.

Heart-Shaped Box is Joe Hill’s debut novel. Don’t judge the book by its name. It isn’t some sappy romance or anything soft and fuzzy and warm, instead it’s a face-paced ride through the terror of Joe Hill’s rather twisted and warped imagination.

Heart-Shaped Box is one of those novels that make you afraid to turn the page, but leave you unable to stop turning the page. Last night after finishing it was the first night I was able to sleep decently since I had started the book. I knew what happened to the characters. I didn’t try to lay down with their trials still shooting through my head, wondering what was going to happen to them next. There was resolution, even through the terror of the book. There were still strange dreams caused by some of the book’s content. I was still resolved not to read a horror novel for some time to come, but it was done for now.

Joe Hill’s novel makes Stephen King’s novels look like fairy tales. By comparison Hill doesn’t just take you for a walk on the dark side, he grabs you kicking and screaming and pulls you down into his world of darkness and death. The darkness, the horror, and the sadness of Heart-Shaped Box pulls you in, sets your heart racing and leaves you exhausted from the race at the end of your reading day, or night, but you might not want to read it at night, it’s that good.

Heart-Shaped Box is everything good fiction and great horror and suspense novels are supposed to be. It pulls you along the razor’s edge leaving you panting and waiting for the release of the conclusion, the climax of the novel and the final breaking of the string of horror which has held you in place from the first pages.

What follows is an excerpt from the novel:

“One of the dogs was in the house.

Jude woke just after three in the morning at the sound of it, pacing in the hallway, a rustle and a light swish of restless movement, a soft bump against the wall.

He had put them in their pens just before dark, remembered doing this very clearly, but didn’t worry about that fact in the first few moments after coming awake. One of them had got into the house somehow, that was all. Jude sat for a moment, still drunk and stuporous from sleep. A blue splash of moonlight fell across Georgia, sleeping on her belly to his left. Dreaming, her face relaxed and scrubbed of all its makeup, she looked almost girlish, and he felt a sudden tenderness for her – that, and also an odd embarassment to find himself in bed with her.

“Angus?” he murmured. “Bon?”

Georgia didn’t stir. Now he heard nothing in the hallway. He slid out of bed. The damp and the cold took him by surprise. The day had been the coolest in months, the first real day of fall, and now there was a raw, clinging chill in the air, which meant it had to be even colder outside. Maybe that was why the dogs were in the house. Maybe they had burrowed under the wall of the pen and somehow forced their way in, desperate to be warm. But that didn’t make sense. They had an indoor-outdoor pen, could go into the heated barn if they were cold. He started toward the door, to peek into the hall, then hesitated at the window and twitched aside the curtain to look outside.

The dogs were in the outdoor half of the pen, both of them, up against the wall of the barn. Angus roamed back and forth over the straw, his body long and sleek, his sliding, sideways movements agitated. Bon sat primly in one corner. Her head was raised, and her gaze was fixed on Jude’s window – on him. Her eyes flashed a bright, unnatural green in the darkness. She was too still, to unblinking, like a statue of a dog instead of the real thing.

It was a shock to look out the window and see her staring directly back at him, as if she’s been watching the glass for who knew how long, waiting for him to appear. But that was not as bad as knowing that something else was in the house, moving around, bumping into things in the hallway.”

The above passage is just a slight example of Hill beginning to build the tension that continues to accumulate throughout the book. There are other examples of his skill in writing, but this is from very early in the book and I wanted to show how from the beginning Hill sets out with consummate skill to build his suspense and the horror elements of the book. Actually, the horror part is great, but the suspense is awesome. You are afraid to keep going, but can’t stop yourself because you simply have to know what happens next.

Obviously, from the excerpt above, Jude is the main character of the book and Georgia, whose real name is Marybeth, is another key protagonist. The two of them are pitted against an evil ghost, who wants revenge on Jude for something that happened to his daughter and for which he blames Jude.

Jude had a hit heavy metal band in the past. He began to cultivate an occult image as part of the band’s aura. After time he became genuinely interested in it. Fans would send him gifts of items of occult interest. Jude’s haunting begins after he willing purchases a dead man’s suit that he knows comes with a ghost. He thinks it will be a cool thing to have. He doesn’t realize he’s been set up to purchase the suit so he can be haunted by the dead man who is out for revenge. A dead man who was also a hypnotist in life and who can still warp people’s minds making them do things they otherwise wouldn’t do and stopping at nothing to kill Jude and anyone who helps him.

This novel is Pigeon Gold, from start to finish. You won’t want to put it down.

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