As you all know, Joe Hill is actually Joe Hillstrom King, Stephen King's son. He chose to publish his work without his famous last name to see if he could make it on his own. And he did. Heart-Shaped Box won the 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. And his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, won the 2005 Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection.
I just bought 20th Century Ghosts today, so I will be reviewing that soon. As for Heart-Shaped Box, it didn't amaze me, but it didn't disappoint me either.
Heart-Shaped Box is about Jude Coyne, an aging rock star who collects macabre stuff (a picture drawn by John Wayne Gacy, a snuff film, etc.). When he sees a ghost for sale online he can't resist buying it. The dead man's suit is sent to Jude, since the owner believes his spirit is connected to the suit. What Jude doesn't know is that the person who sent the suit isn't exactly a stranger....
I guess everyone wants to know how Hill compares to his dad, so I'll get right down to it. I actually preferred Hill's writing style over his fathers'. He doesn't dedicate pages and pages of the book to description. Sometimes King can be quite wordy and it bogs down the story, but Hill just gets right to the action. But Hill's characters left a little to be desired and I didn't care much about them, whereas I always fall in love with King's characters. While they both have some similarities, they're both two different writers.
What drew me to this book, rather than the fact that Joe Hill is Stephen King's son, was the intriguing plot. Buying a ghost off eBay? I wish I'd thought of that brilliant idea. And the way he describes the ghost with black marks in front of his eyes was creepy.
The pace was incredibly fast. Jude buys the ghost in Chapter One, receives it in Chapter Two and the first ghost sighting is in Chapter Six. The chapters are short, making it easy for you to say "Just one more chapter..." and read late into the night. The first 1/4 of the novel was one of the creepiest ghost stories I've ever read. It even gave me goosebumps. But about 3/4 through the novel loses steam and the ghost and his attempts at getting Jude become less creepy and more monotonous and dull.
But the part of the book most lacking was the most important part: the characters. The main character, Jude, was kind of a jerk. Well, at least when it comes to women. For example, he calls his goth girlfriend Georgia, after the state she's from, just like he did with all his past girlfriends. He did change as the novel progressed, but by that point it was too late for me to start caring about him. The character I cared the most about was Jude's ex-girlfriend who is only shown in flashbacks.
Heart-Shaped Box was an O.K. start for Hill, evidently he's learned a thing or two from his father. The first 1/4 was pretty creepy and it's worth reading just for that. Oh, and check out Hill's website. He recommends books, movies and music on it. And there's a pretty cool game based on one of his short stories.