: Heart-shaped box (9780061944895) : Joe Hill : Books
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Heart-shaped Box

by Joe Hill
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • Publishing date: 01/01/2010
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780061944895
  • ISBN: 0061944890


Do you sleep with the light on? Are you in the habit of checking your doors and windows before you go to bed? Maybe even checking under your bed? If you are about to crack open Joe Hill's chilling thriller Heart-Shaped Box, you might want to rethink your nighttime habits--Hill's story about an aging rock star (with a penchant for macabre artifacts) who buys a haunted suit online will scare you silly. But don't take our word for it. We asked bestselling authors (and masters of dark terror tales themselves) Scott Smith, and Harlan Coben to read Heart-Shaped Box and give us their take. Check out their reviews below, and you might want to pick up a nightlight while you're at it. --Daphne Durham

Guest Reviewer: Scott Smith

In 1993, Scott Smith wowed readers with his stunning debut thriller, A Simple Plan. Thirteen years later, he spooked us again with The Ruins, a horror-thriller about four Americans traveling in Mexico who stumble across a nightmare in the jungle.

The set-up for Joe Hill's novel, Heart-Shaped Box, is appealingly simple. Jude Coyne, an aging rock star, buys himself a dead man's suit. He acquires it online, lured by the promise that the dead man's ghost will be included in his purchase. Jude thinks this is a joke, of course. He also assumes the seller is a stranger. We soon discover that he's wrong on both counts, however, and from this point on the story moves with an exhilarating urgency. Jude wants the ghost gone; the ghost wants Jude dead. We watch, chapter-by-chapter, as they battle for survival. "Watch" is the appropriate word, too, because this is an extremely visual book. Hill's prose is lean and precise, and he renders Jude's world with impressive confidence. It feels solid, every detail both correct and fresh. And this physicality provides a firm platform for the book's otherworldly happenings, which seem all the more frightening for being so securely grounded.

Hill has a flawless sense of pacing. His narrative never flags, nor does it ever move so quickly as to outrun itself. And one can sense his literary ambition pushing at the margins of the genre. There are times when his writing, for all its spare efficiency, seems to jump away from him, stopping one small step short of poetry. An e-mail to Jude from the ghost (trust me, it's not as absurd as it sounds) could even pass for something ee cummings might've written, in an especially morbid mood. And toward the end of the book, when Hill describes a trip down death's "night road" in a '65 Mustang, the passage has a startlingly lyrical beauty.

The story's horror ultimately has as much to do with Jude Coyne's past--his mistakes, abandonments and betrayals--as with anything supernatural. Jude has caused a lot of pain over the years, moving through life with a carelessness that verges on the callous. His battle with the ghost brings this behavior into sharp relief, forcing him to reflect upon his own capacity for cruelty. This dawning self-awareness leavens the book's bleakness and gore (and it is delightfully gory in places) with an unexpected sweetness. Despite our initial impression, Jude is gradually revealed--both to himself and the reader--as an essentially decent, even kind man. It's this kindness, this fledgling ability to love and be loved, that will ultimately be of crucial consequence in his death struggle with the ghost. And it's what makes Hill's debut not only well-written and terrifying, but also--as it draws to its close--surprisingly moving. So go ahead, take a chance, and open his Heart-Shaped Box. I think you’ll be happy you did. --Scott Smith

Guest Reviewer: Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is the author of the beloved Myron Bolitar series about a wisecracking sports agent, as well as stunning stand-alone novels like The Innocent and his breakout thriller Tell No One. His new novel The Woods releases on April 17, 2007.

You, dear reader, are obviously somewhat versed in making online purchases, so today, immediately after you click on the yellow "Add to Shopping Cart" on the top right hand corner of this page, why not do an online search and buy something totally unique?

Like, say, a vengeful ghost.

That is what rock-star Judas Coyne does, thinking it will be a laugh, fun for his "sick-o" collection of such things. It seems a random buy, but Judas soon learns that it is anything but. This particular ghost is one Craddock McDermott, step-father to recent suicide victim and boy, is he cranky. He demands revenge for his step-daughter’s death, which he blames on Judas’s shabby treatment of her.

Or is he after something else?

There are Amazon readers who will give you a better plot summary. Don't read them too closely because Joe Hill provides plenty of fun surprises. Heart-Shaped Box is a true spine-tingler. I don’t use that hyphenated word much anymore. We have seen and read it all, haven't we? But right away, in the first chapter, there was a subtle line that made the hairs on the back of my neck go up in a way I haven't experienced since I first discovered great horror as a teenager.

Hill writes with a sure hand. The prose is compelling. Like most memorable tales of horror, this book is more about redemption than scary moments--though Heart-Shaped Box has plenty of scares. They are visceral, shocking and very well done. The characters are flawed and real. The father-son relationship adds texture and surprising poignancy.

So here's the thing. My guess is, you won’t find a ghost to buy online, but if you read the Heart-Shaped Box, you will be getting something that will haunt you and startle you and stay with you and yes, visit you in your dreams.

Sleep well, dear reader. --Harlan Coben

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  • a great character study
    From Amazon

    This is a very good book. Take a ghost, a rock star, an interest in the macabre, put it all together and you might be expecting some teen oriented over the top slasher. Thankfully, this book goes well beyond what it could and perhaps should have sunk to. What makes Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box so engrossing is a sweet style of writing, a unique story, and a character study to die for. This book is a little bit of a challenge, its not a thriller, its pace can be slow at times. Other reviewers were complaining because this is not a 'scary' book. I'd agree with that. ON the other hand, I dont think any book I have read since turning 13 has been all that scary. Hill seems to have given the horror genre a lot of thought. The best writers back to the earliest beginnings of horror have focused on either fast paced thrillers or a personal struggle between good and evil. Think about Shelly's Frankenstein, perhaps the archetype for the horror genre. Thats a story all about one man and his search for redemption for a wrong he committed out of hubris. Frankenstein is a slow short novel. It works because Shelly so deeply analyzed her protagonist. Hill is smart. I think he saw this, he compared it to contemporary mile a minute action horror so popular today, and instead focused on the foibles of mankind. Dont get me wrong, your not going to pick this up and read a story of one man trapped in a room with a ghost and thats it. The story maintains a nice tenseness as it progresses. Hill can write like a pro. He has a firm grasp for story and sentences. His prose often is some of the best I have recently read. I felt that after the characters were explored, 'Heart Shaped Box' started to follow a more traditional King/Koontz progression. I felt that Hill had the need to wrap it up the way that all the established authors would. I think he could have continued to push the envelope a little. Hah, I see from reading other reviews that this is Stephen Kings son. It makes sense. This is a lot better than anything King has written over the last 25 years. It has a very different feel on many levels so you cant say that he is totally copying his dad. This is a great book. I look forwards to reading many many more.

  • Works For Me
    From Amazon

    I enjoyed this quite a bit. I listened to it on audio actually, and part of that was while camping. I was sitting up after everyone else had gone to sleep, with my ears plugged in to Judas Coyne's story. A bit creepy, I assure you. But what I like about this is the clean writing. Line by line, it's well-crafted. The thrills aren't cheap and the characters aren't one-dimensional. There are a few images that I imagine will linger with me for a long time. That's not a bad thing. Another thing that's not a bad thing - that I feel no need to compare him to his father. This guy is a writer in his own right.

  • Hooked from page 2
    From Amazon

    This one popped up in my recommended items so i figured I'd give it a shot. The description is accurate so there is no need for me to rehash it. The book is fantastic. Mr. Hill's characters and descriptions pull you into the story and keep you there. I found out after the fact that he was Stephen King's kid but got suspicious a little ways into it. At first I thought King had snuck in another pen name on me. References to "the dead pull the living down" sounded so much like "IT" I got suspicious and looked Joe Hill up. In the end Mr. Hill is his own writer, and a very talented one at that. In the tradition of his father he has earned the dubious honor of having me as a "Constant Reader."

  • Not what I expected
    From Amazon

    I had high hopes for this book being that the premise of a man collecting artifacts of the macabre seems like something sick I would do (if I had the money) & I was looking forward to reading a horror book. It's been years since my last dose of terror in book-form, but I couldn't find myself much engaged in this story. It's about an aging rockstar named Judas Coyne (love the pun) who buys a ghost through an online auction for $1,000. The ghost arrives via a heart-shaped box with an old man's suit inside. Well, what Judas & his stripper girlfriend du jour Georgia find out is that this isn't a harmless addition to the collection, it's an actual ghost & it's there on a mission. Now, this is where the story lost me & admittedly, it was very early in the book...the ghost wants to kill Judas & anyone who helps him, because the ghost is the stepfather of one of his past girlfriends Florida (names his women after states, making it easier to discard them). Florida later commits suicide, thus providing the motive for Mr. Ghosty's revenge. But...dun, dun, dun, we find out there is more to the story than we imagined & if I said anymore it would surely spoil the plot. It wasn't my cup of tea, found it a bit dull at times & I was barely interested in the characters. However, I did like how the dogs Angus & Bon were vital to the plot. (Hey, I love dogs.)

  • A Dark Horror Story
    From Amazon

    Why are so many ghost stories southern gothic ghost stories? As if unrelenting evil best speaks with a cracker accent? This is very dark story. Bad things happen, good people are hurt, the evil is incredibly powerful. There were moments where I had to stop and consider whether the author had gone too far, whether I wanted to continue reading. The characters are believable and well written, the story pulls you along. It is consistent unto itself. If you're in the mood for a horror novel, I recommend it.

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