Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe HillHeart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Also by this author: Welcome to Lovecraft
Published by HarperCollins on 2007-05-01
Genres: Horror
Pages: 528
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased

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Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest purchase, an item he discovered on the Internet: I will sell my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder . . . For a thousand dollars, Jude has become the owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. Suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored Mustang . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand . . .


So a few months back, I read Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I absolutely loved Horns, NOS4A2 and Locke & Key (my first graphic novel experience). Needless to say, I had high expectations for HSB. I’ve put off reviewing it because I can’t decide how to put into words how I felt about this book. Or really, if I even wanted to try to put words to it. But I’m trying now, so here it goes.

I grew up with horror. I love dark books. I have never felt that maybe a book was too dark for me. Until now. I had a very hard time getting through this one and I can’t say how much of it is just a personal reaction that is separate from the actual text and world that Hill uses to create this world and story.  For this reason, I have hesitated to review it.

The problem for me is that I have a very hard time reading about suicide. Any storylines, jokes, what not that involve the topic, they take a much darker turn for me than I think is actually intended or what most people would experience. So, while I have a very high tolerance for dark books, my saying this one was a tad too dark for me may not have as much weight as if it were a typical grimdark style story with swords, murder, assassins, torturers, or whatever the case may be.

The darkness and my issues with that aside, the storyline for this was very intriguing. Aging rock star, Judas Coyne, is fascinated with the occult. He collects the strange and macabre, so when he  is presented with the opportunity to purchase a ghost, how could he turn it down? Turns out, this purchase actually is what it claims to be. And the ghost is not just random, but is set to haunt and terrorize Judas for vengeance.

As one would expect with the theme and the author, the book is dark and haunting.  There are thrilling and tense moments, scenes that make you squeamish, events that you just didn’t see coming. I love all these things about Joe Hill’s books.  And Heart-Shaped Box definitely delivered on all accounts. Personally, I prefer Horns or NOS4A2 or even Locke and Key, and will recommend those first but this story is also worth reading and is still probably a must read for fans of Joe Hill’s other books.


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4 thoughts on “Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill”

  1. I picked up both this one and Horns when they were Kindle deals. I read NOS4A2 which I loved, and I told myself it would not be my first or my last Joe Hill book, so I guess when the time comes I should choose Horns first, huh? 🙂

  2. How would you compare the writing in “Heart-Shaped Box” vs., say, “NOS4A2” or “Lock & Key”? I’m about two thirds of the way through this one. My impression so far is that it’s pretty rough around the edges, but does have some pretty incredible moments.

    1. Personally, I think NOS4A2, Locke & Key and Horns are all a bit more solid, particularly Horns and NOS4A2 (I have a harder time comparing Locke & Key since the format is so different). This is still a great story, and you definitely get a good feel for Joe Hill’s capabilities as a writer, but I think his other works are stronger.

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