Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spooky but somewhat stilted

Joe Hill is pretty goddamn decent. I've read two of his novels now, and a collection of his short stories, and I'm pleased as punch. He seems to be doing a good job of staying out of his father's shadow while still writing in a style and a genre that I'm sure everyone is just falling over themselves to label predictable.

Fuck it! Maybe it is a bit predictable that someone who was raised by Stephen King and raised reading Stephen King novels would be interested in writing character-driven horror stories, but is any of that a bad thing? Hell no! Character-driven horror stories are rad as shit and I want more of them. And Hill really isn't just a younger clone of his dad - Hill's stories are moodier and tighter than King's, allowing themselves to get mired in melodrama but never dropping the wonderful pace the story sets.

Heart-Shaped Box races along right from the start and drags you into the story. Jude, our protagonist, is an Ozzy-esque former rock star with a liking for much younger goth girlfriends and a penchant for collecting macabre memorabilia. Both of these interests converge and complicate his life right as he's starting to get complacent.

The book takes no time - the actual story takes place over the course of about a week but it feels like both more and less time; flashbacks take you through Jude's rock-and-roll life, years of dangerous history, but you can read through the whole sordid history and mystery in a couple of hours.

I'm not going to lie Heart-Shaped Box isn't as fun or funny as Horns, nor is it as good as Horns, but it's vastly entertaining and a good read nonetheless. I think Heart-Shaped Box is a good example of an author stretching his legs. It's a first novel, it's got some problems, but you can tell by the end that Hill is finding his stride.

     - Alli

Hill, Joe. Heart-Shaped Box. Harper Publishing. New York: New York. 2010. (2007).

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