I am not what you would call a horror person. I do not generally enjoy being scared. I am the person who watches horror films through their fingers. Hell, I can’t even watch the commercials half the time. Halloween is my least favorite holiday, except for the free candy thing. I do not go to haunted houses, preferring not to spend an evening screaming and crying in fright. So picking up this book was a step outside of my comfort zone.
I have read one other book my Joe Hill, Horns. (Which I reviewed here). I initially read Horns because the movie looked interesting to me. I did not think of it as a horror story so I wasn’t that adverse to reading it.
I loved Horns, it was interesting and the one of those books I had trouble putting down. I then looked up Joe Hill’s other books and read some reviews. Many of the reviews stated that Heart-Shaped Box was one of his scarier books. I was hesitant at first to read this book. As I just stated I do not enjoy being scared. But I wanted to see if I could manage a horror book and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this story a lot. Yes, I did have to read most of it during the day but I found myself pulled in despite the horror elements.
Heart-Shaped Box is about Jude, a kind of death-metal rock musician. He was once part of a successful band but has gone solo because of many of the members of the band dying. He is now on his own and past his rockstar heyday. He fits the stereotype of the death-metal rock genre. He is interested in the macabre, which is why he buys a suit that is said to have a ghost attached to it. He doesn’t think twice about it.
It turns out that the sale was set up as revenge from the owner. He is out to get revenge on Jude for the death of his step-daughter. The ghost begins to haunt and try to kill Jude. Jude and his girlfriend have to run for their lives. As they run they learn there is much more to this haunting than what the auction site stated.
I have stated in a number of reviews is that characters are what draw me into stories. The plot is, of course, important but if I cannot form a connection with a character I tend to not be able to make it through a book.
At first, I was skeptical about Jude’s character. He starts the story as a selfish, almost heartless seeming man. He has a girlfriend but she is just one in a long line of women he has been with. He doesn’t even refer to them by their names, instead naming the women by the states they came from. He takes advantage of his assistant who basically hero-worships him. For the first few chapters, he isn’t a man that I would never spend more than an hour with. He feels like the kind of person you get a bad first impression of and then have trouble seeing past that impression.
But we learn quickly why Jude is this way. Jude grew up in an abusive home and has since had trouble forming any real connections to anyone in his life. Hill does give Jude one redeeming quality though, his care and love for his dogs. We see that while it appears that Jude has a cold heart, that is not entirely true. There is still something inside of him that can show care and love for something in his life.
Joe hill does a great job at setting up Jude’s character for the journey is going to start in this story. In the beginning, Jude appears to be a man who doesn’t seem to be living for anything or anyone. He seems dead inside.
Then the ghost enters his life. Jude is blamed for something that he did not do. But he did have a part in because of his standoff way of taking on life. He has to run for his life. Jude never truly fought for much in his life until this point. He learns that there are things in his life worth fighting for, that his life itself is worth fighting for. The fight against the dead reawakens the life inside of Jude.
There are points throughout the story where Jude wonders if continuing to run and fight are worth it. The ghost torments him, trying to kill him. For a man who was floating along and just existing for much of his life, this is the journey that gives him a reason to live again. He opens his heart and life is breathed into him.
This was a page-turner story. You get caught up in the story wondering how Jude and his girlfriend are going to manage to get out of this predicament. You wonder where they are going to go next. How far are they going to run and how do you fight a ghost? The descriptions of the ghosts are chilling. There are points that send chills down your back which only heightens the suspense of the story. If you like horror with emotion, as well as journey of self-discovery you will enjoy this book.
A/N: This is an excerpt from a novel I am working on. These are the secondary villains I guess you would call them. They are the problem no one has time to deal with during the time line of the novel. A mistake they will sorely regret in future books.
The Leader pulled the group through dense forests and over high hills, past small creeks and over huge oceans. He pulled them left, right and then turned around and backtracked hundreds of feet. He could smell the joy, the life and the hope. The scent intrigued him, made his mouth water, now he just had to find it.
After a few more wrong turns and dead ends, he found it. Just beyond a small clearing was tastiest, most delectable village. The trees were alive with green and yellow foliage. Bright pink and red flowers bloomed heavy on the branches. Birds twittered as they watched squirrels chase each other over and under the tree limbs. Laughter and shouts from the village wafted through the thin barrier of bright and vibrant green shrubbery. No one could see them but soon they would sense them.
“Fast or slow?” a voice asked him. He could feel the jittery twitch flowing through their form. He wanted to shout, “Go out and devour!” and then watch as their black cloud swelled. He wanted to sit back and watch as the people’s tall, proud forms slumped and fell. He wanted to watch as the town went from a vibrant community to the walking dead in a matter of seconds. This was his first act as leader of the group though; it needed to be remembered for eons to come, so slow it would be.
“Slow. Pull the colors from the trees and shrubs. Kill the grass; silence the birds and chattering squirrels and chipmunks. Pull the clouds over the sun, casting shadows over every living space. Make them cower; make them see the gloom that is coming for them. Let them stew in the fact that there isn’t a thing they can do about it,” he heard the hum of satisfaction race through the group. “Then pull every hope, dream and ounce of joy from them. Leave the villagers sniveling husks, wondering what went wrong.”
As soon as the last word had left his mouth, he felt the movement around him. He felt the tugs to the left, right, and center as the collective swarmed forward. With a satisfied sigh, he settled back in the remaining shadow and watched the show. He watched as the green leaves faded to grey and brown and fell from the branches as dried husks mingling into the dead brown grass below. The bright flowers dimmed and slowly shriveled up until they were nothing but debris. The bare branches sagged, no longer concealing The Shadows from view. No one shouted or ran for cover. Each inhabitant averted his or her eyes as if to say, “If I can’t see you, you aren’t real.” Once the outer line of the forest was dead, the group pulled back for a moment savoring their appetizer.
Once the sweet tang had faded, they swarmed forward once again. With a tug, they silenced each owl, sparrow and robin. The clicking insects and whispering winds went silent. The world was deathly quiet, no longer beckoning the world to smile or laugh. People grimaced and vigorously shook their heads trying desperately to reinstate some semblance of sound. Some grabbed hands of friends or children and pulled them inside; probably thinking sturdy walls could protect them. Naiveté would be their demise.
For the few who continued with their day, the disappearance of the sun was the last straw. One second the air was warm and the area was awash with light, keeping the dark at bay; the next second dark black clouds rolled in and the light became nothing but a distant memory. The warmth evaporated leaving nothing but a chill rolling down the few remaining spines. There were a few brave souls (or more likely naïve ones) who remained outside. Their eyes scanned the area, desperately searching for an explanation. The Leader knew they were looking for the hidden cause, the broken switch they could flip and restore everything to the way it had been moments before. Once they realized there was no solution, that there was no way to fix any of this, they sidled inside to hide with the rest of the village
Once every person was gone, safely hidden away, The Leader pulled the group back and laughed. He laughed loud and long, reveling in the power he wielded and the destruction he stood before. With only a few tugs and gulps, he had made an entire village run for cover. Now he controlled them. One minute they were laughing and smiling without a worry, the next they were cowering behind wooden doors terrified of the outside world.
His finally stopped laughing, he felt his jittering excitement extend throughout the group. The appetizer had been delicious, the main course was delectable but dessert was going to be perfect. Something they would revel in for days to come. Something to remember next time they had empty stomachs.
“Go,” he hissed. He held back once more, letting the black mass hunt out each beating heart. He was the anchor, holding them in place, waiting for the gush of juicy joy. They surrounded the huts and began to pull; he savored each ounce of sweet joy, tangy laughter, and savory dream. It was like consuming heaven itself, utterly divine. He relaxed as his long inadequately filled stomach grew. This was how life should be there was no stopping them. They, The Shadows, would always be present, always ready to consume that spark of life left unguarded.