Heavy Metal, ghosts, and the road trip from hell – “Heart-Shaped Box” by Joe Hill
There, I said it. It’s out in the open.
Now, forget it. It’s not important.
Smartly, upon the original publication of this novel, Hill did his best to distance himself from his uber-famous father, in an attempt to to be judged on his own merits. The success of “Heart-Shaped Box” outed him to the literary world, but it’s all good now. He’s recognized as a talented writer regardless of his famous lineage, and “Heart-Shaped Box” is one of the most delightful books I’ve read in a while.
I loved it. I was sad to be done with it.
The book follows the adventures of fifty-three year old heavy metal superstar Judas “Jude” Coyne. (Imagine an Alice Cooper figure, if you will, or perhaps Ozzy Ozbourne from a few years ago.)
A collector of twisted and macabre items, Jude buys a ghost on an internet auction site, and from there the novel takes off like a rocket. Turns out, the seller of the ghost has an agenda against Jude, and plans to torture him via a ghost with hypnotic abilities. The ghost has been sent to make Jude kill himself, and everyone around him. With his goth girlfriend Georgia (and two loyal and ass-kicking dogs) in tow, Jude is followed by this ghost from New York to Florida to Louisiana in a road trip from hell.
The action is fast and furious, and there’s plenty of violence. There are chase scenes, and car accidents, and guns, and knives, and sex, and otherworldly things going on all over the place. Truly, there’s not a dull moment to be found within the pages of this book.
The strongest aspect of the novel are our central duo. Jude and Georgia are a wonderfully cranky pair, and you truly care what happens to them as they race across the country, choosing flight over fight as long as they can. They fight and banter and care about each other the whole time. More than just a horror story, it’s a love story. Also, it has aspects of a redemption story.
Most of all, it’s a modern fable – with the moral being “Be damn careful what you wish for, you just might get it. And then some.”
Reading the book is like watching a really thrilling movie. In fact, this would be a fantastic film. I’m honestly surprised no one’s picked it up yet. There’s a “Heart Shaped Box” film in development on IMDB, but no details are given, so who knows if it’s this book or something else. (Personally, I’m seeing Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood, but that’s just me. And also probably totally influenced by how great I thought “The Wrestler” was.)
“Heart-Shaped Box” isn’t a life-changing book, or even one that I might read again. (Now that I know how it ends, it wouldn’t be the same on a second read.) However, while I was reading it, I was riveted, entertained, and I really cared. What more can a reader ask for?
I recommend it.