Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Book: Heart-Shaped Box

I'm currently experiencing a strange dearth of books that I'm dying to get into. I'm reading a friend's manuscript (fabulous) and also a few health/meditation books (which I may or may not review), but these are difficult to cart around and not exactly comfy bedtime reading. So... I pulled out Heart-Shaped Box, which I've had laying around for awhile.

I fully expected it to be pretty stupid. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a decent story, not terribly written, and had a fun happy ending which was totally unexpected.

Judas Coyne, aging lead singer of the heavy-metal band Jude's Hammer, has a thing for weird stuff. He's got monkey paws and dog bones and relics and all kinds of creepy things. Now all he needs is his own personal ghost. One day, he gets just that. Up for auction on an knock-off Ebay site is an offer of a Ghost For Sale. For kicks, he buys it for $1000. A few days later, a musty old suit shows up on his doorstep. And a few days after that... the ghost arrives. And begins a hell-on-wheels adventure.

This started off pretty slow but fairly interesting. I liked Jude. Crusty and grumpy and unashamed of his life, he knows what he likes. Music. His dogs. Goth girls. Weird things. His old Mustang, which he restored himself. Once the ghost appears, things start to go bad, quickly. (in the story, I mean. The book remains fairly decent throughout). People start to get hurt. The ghost gets creepier. The messages become darker. The near-death escapes become more frequent. And then they all head off on the road trip, which is when things get REALLY going.

Jude's girlfriend, Georgia (named after her home state), starts out pretty annoying, and stays relatively annoying until about halfway through the book, when you realize that she's sticking around. I think we realize that she's sticking around at about the same time Jude realizes she's sticking around. After that, both we and Jude soften towards her, and by the end, we kinda love her. Not exactly sure why, but we do.

That's kind of how this whole book goes. Not exactly sure why I liked it, since it wasn't particularly fantastic, and the story had some pretty big holes in it (now, WHY did he have to BUY the ghost? and WHY is that mother so awful? and WHY does Anna need a door? and what the heck is this door anyway?). But by the end, I did. I liked it a lot. I liked Jude (turns out he's kind of a big teddy bear after all). I liked Georgia. She was really annoying and by the end I wasn't sure why Jude decided he really did love her, and I wasn't sure why I did either, but we both did. She turned out to be a good egg.

Lots of bad eggs in the book, and you know how much I love a good bad egg, so that was satisfying.

Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, a fact which was rolling around in the back of my mind as I read this. His style is definitely King-like, but did not copy all the King standbys, which I appreciated. The book reads as though he is finding his own style along the way, and although I haven't read any other Joe Hill books, I got the impression that he's developing as a writer. I could see the family resemblance, but it was more of a flavor than the main entree. I am a big fan of Stephen King's early books and this was definitely not of that caliber, but it was still plenty good.

Anyway. This was sort of a time-killer book, and it was definitely amusing and a pretty good ghost story. The happy ending was a nice surprise, as I said. Enough slashing and bad things happen to keep horror fans happy, and enough creepy ghostiness to keep spooky fans (like myself) happy. It would be a nice toss-in to round out an RIP TBR list, or it would also be a good vacation book since it was not exactly challenging to read. It was fun and unexpected and a pretty good summer read.


Carl V. said...

This is one that I consistently hear good things about. I should put a hold on it at the library for this year's R.I.P. challenge.

Tammie said...

buying a ghost? thats a wild premise.
you've been reading some great books lately---i keep getting saddled with clunkers that i feel obligated to finish.

Stefanie said...

James read this one when it first came out and really liked it. Since I don't do horror very well (nightmares) I haven't read it though maybe one of these days if I am on vacation in a bright sunny location I might give it a try.

Hazra said...

Nice find. Buying a ghost sounds a little silly, but I guess it becomes better as you go along.

Daphne said...

Yeah, buying a ghost seems pretty silly... but it *sort of* gets explained later. Kind of. That's actually one of the weak points in the book. However, it's overall pretty good, so worth a read if you are wanting a fairly decent ghost story! It's a good road-trip adventure as well. ..

Alex said...

I agree... you've been reviewing some great books. Actually, I'm not sure I'd like the books... you just review them so well, I want to read them.

Does the title of this one relate to the Nirvana song?

Daphne said...

Alex: no, I don't think so. I thought of that, too. There's another heart-shaped box theme running through the book. Some of the books I'm reading are really good... and some are really bad. However, I love to review books, good or bad!

Anonymous said...

I have this out from the library at the moment, but haven't got into it - I've stopped just as they're heading off on the road trip. I hadn't made the Stephen King connection, interesting.

Nymeth said...

I liked this more than I expected, too. I think it was because of the characters - I ended up really caring about them.