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Heart-Shaped Box Paperback – December 22, 2009
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A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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[Hill]’s got horror down pat, and his debut is hair-raising fun.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A relentlessly scary ghost story.” (Bookseller (London))
“Powerful . . . a fast-paced plot that crackles with expertly planted surprises and revelations . . . a truly memorable debut.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“You can’t go wrong with Heart-Shaped Box.” Top Five Fiction-Books of 2007 (The Observer)
“A fast-paced journey on wheels borrowed from hell’s used-car lot, and there aren’t a lot of comfort breaks...The pictures [Hill] painted colored my dreams and darkened my mood even after I’d put the book down.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
From the Back Cover
Aging death-metal rock legend Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals...a used hangman's noose...a snuff film. But nothing he possesses is as unique or as dreadful as his latest purchase off the Internet: a one-of-a-kind curiosity that arrives at his door in a black heart-shaped box...a musty dead man's suit still inhabited by the spirit of its late owner. And now everywhere Judas Coyne goes, the old man is there—watching, waiting, dangling a razor blade on a chain from his bony hand.
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From the very beginning there is a "bump in the night" kind of creepiness that sets in, making this reader feel incredibly unsettled (which is great when reading a scary story!). As the synopsis states, Judas Coyne receives a ghost attached to an old man's suit that he purchased online, a ghost that it turns out has a personal vendetta against Judas. And boy oh boy does he start terrorizing Judas and his girlfriend, Georgia (real name Marybeth), from the moment that box arrives. As Craddock, the ghost, starts popping up around Judas's house he doesn't just stand around spooking people, no. He starts taking over their minds (turns out Craddock was a sadistic hypnotist when he was alive), herky-jerky moving around the house, whispering in ears and trying to get Judas and the people around him to either kill themselves or kill Judas. This in particular I found terrifying because how do you stop a ghost, who has this particular ability, from taking over your mind? And when Judas starts hearing horrible things - including dead people! - on the phone and through the radio I nearly jumped out of my skin!
Once Judas determines he is going to go on a road trip to confront the woman who sold him the ghost the scope and depth of the story builds. The actual race to find a way to stop this ghost before death literally catches up to them allows the tension to get tighter and tighter. Beyond that, Judas's reevaluation of his life and what he has done in his past makes this become a redemption story, one about a man facing all the bad things he's done in his past and forgiving himself for these past mistakes (figuratively putting his ghosts to rest) in order to try and move on and have a better life....if he can survive, that is. On top of this there's even a love story component - if an unusual one - and I was really happy to see a true building and acknowledgement of affection between Judas and Marybeth. I'm not going to give anything away about the ending, but I will say I would never have thought of the story ending that way.
Heart-Shaped Box has just about every component I can think of wrapped up in one thrilling package, something I didn't expect at all and which I absolutely loved! There's definitely scares and grit and gore, but there's so much more than that. I am now a forever fan of Joe Hill and cannot wait to read his other novels!
Decades later, his manger noticed an online ad selling a dead mans suit complete with its former owner. Because of his fan base, the manager thought it would be something that Jude would be interested in, and they sent a thousand dollars for the oddity. It arrived in a black, heart shaped box and was trouble from the start.
It was a good story, but I fear my taste for horror stories has gone past its sell date, at least where people who won’t stay dead are concerned. Interesting, but not really my cuppa tea anymore. I do however enjoy evil child molesters getting their due, and stories where music and dogs are integral characters, so this tale kept me along for the ride, was satisfying and time well spent.
I was in awe of The Fireman, which I believe was written after this one. I believe Joe Hill is a very talented, sinister and wickedly funny writer.
The only thing that aging death-metalist Judas Coyne loves more than sleeping with pretty Goth chicks half his age—is collecting macabre memorabilia, from Mexican snuff films to cookbooks for cannibals. Naturally, when Jude’s doting assistant tells him about a bonafide ghost being auctioned online in the form of a dead man’s garish suit, Jude didn’t think twice about this ghastly purchase. No sooner does the suit arrive that he and “Georgia”—Jude’s latest in a succession of pierced twenty-something admirers he christens by their respective homegrown states—are mercilessly terrorized by the vindictive ghost of Craddock McDermott, stepfather of a young groupie that Jude tossed aside before she committed suicide (seemingly over being callously discarded by the self-indulgent rock star). Craddock, a skilled hypnotist and dowser in his former life, uses his amplified powers of persuasion to wage war on Coyne’s sanity, by urging him to murder Georgia and his faithful dogs. As Jude and Georgia hit the road with Craddock hot on their heels in his ghostly pickup truck, Jude realizes there’s more to this vendetta from beyond the grave than meets the eye...and Jude will be forced to confront not only this sexagenarian poltergeist, but himself as well.
Author Joe Hill may be the new kid on the block, but his ability to fashion brisk, tight prose demonstrates both a mastery of the English language and a sheer vivid imagination. By now, most readers are aware that Joe Hill (née Joseph Hillstrom King) is the progeny of undisputed horror master, Stephen King. After reading Heart-Shaped Box, it’s markedly clear that when it comes to writing quality horror, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Hill’s literary style and hard-hitting voice are remarkable; and his uncompromising, fully-realized characters serve to anchor this paranormal plot firmly in reality. Hill possesses both a clear knack for manifesting complex, tormented characters that stick with readers even when they (the readers) would prefer otherwise, and an aptitude for illustrating just how scrupulous humans can bring devastation to those whom they ought to hold nearest and dearest. Judas Coyne is a standout character—so human in his imperfection—and a far cry from the usual clueless horror-fiction protagonist. While most readers will find it difficult to relate to Jude Coyne, this loathing, out-to-pasture musician is an anti-hero worth rooting for. That goes double for Georgia—who’s armed with enough spunk and sharp one-liners to make her more than just a shallow ex-stripper with piercings in all the wrong places, but rather a likeable character that one hopes will come out on the side of redemption after this horrifying and painful journey.
Heart-Shaped Box doesn’t read like a rookie effort. Early passages featuring the ghostly old man with black, scribbled-out eyes lurking in the shadows of Jude’s rural New York fief are rife with tension and sure to get under one’s skin. This satisfying debut is as hair-raising as it is multilayered. Horror aficionados will definitely want to take a spin on that nightroad!
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