Guest Author - Justin Daniel Davis
You can buy anything on the internet these days. Just ask successful, hard-rocker Jude Coyne. Cars? Check. Albums? Check. Ghosts? Why not?
Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, published by HarperCollins in 2007, is an intriguing story about an established musician who is driven to collect strange things. Having a heavily gothic fan base, he has acquired some amazing and intriguing paraphernalia throughout his career. Naturally, when a ghost comes up for sale in the guise of an old macabre three piece suit, Jude automatically instructs his assistant to buy it, no matter the price. Unfortunately for Jude, he gets a lot more than he bargains for.
Hill’s tale is more than a simple ghost story. As evidenced in the title, there is a lot at stake for the character of Jude who, while coming across perhaps a little cynical at first, proves to be a warm and resourceful individual as he and those close to him come under the attacks of vengeful spirits from beyond the grave. Hill also plays well with the paranoia of the "wired" age. The interet can be a true source of foulness and evil in this increasingly technoligical society in which we live. The story, in between some truly startling and eerie moments, also deals with love, regret, and bitterness rolled into an overall satisfying and clever tale.
While his characterization is strong, the story moves at sometimes such a break-neck speed that the reader risks being left in the dust. A few of the scares risk redundancy and overuse, but Hill is a skilled writer. Although at times Heart-Shaped Box appears formulaic and moves too fast in places, he paints vivid pictures and allows insight and depth into his characters. He also has the rare ability as a writer to actually creep the reader out on occasion, no small feat in the modern world of horror. There are many realistic themes at play and evident in the plight of the protagonist: abandonment, abuse, fear, and loss. Mix these with wicked spirits and even more monstrous humans throughout Heart-Shaped Box, you’ve got yourself a creepy adventure by a good horror writer definitely worth checking out.