If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know that I have become a fan of Joe Hill’s novels. I read and loved NOS4A2, and I read and liked Horns by him. So, I decided to go back to his first novel. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it as much as the previous two I have read.
Judas Coyne, an old rock/metal star, buys a ghost online. Judas does not quite believe in the ghost he is supposedly buying, but it is in his image to like Gothic or macabre items. Plus, he’s rich and a bit bored. He soon finds out that the ghost is indeed real. In fact, it has ties to Judas’s past and wants revenge. It is out to kill him and everyone he loves, and the seller has a no returns policy.
So far, I would not really call any of Joe Hill’s books scary. His novels tend to be a mix of horror elements, cool characters, an adventurous plot, and a dash of a romantic subplot. I would say that all three of his novels that I have read contain these themes. Personally, I like this mixture, but if you’re looking for a real scare, I would look elsewhere. Since this was Hill’s first novel, it simply isn’t as polished as his others. The plot itself is interesting, but it feels thin compared to his newer works. The best part of the plot (and the scariest parts) took place in Judas’s home in the first half of the novel. After that, the plot dragged a bit with a lengthy road trip. The ending felt a little sudden and chaotic after the relatively dull middle section. Hill’s novels tend to have some paranormal/magical elements in them, but in his later works he does a better job of describing the images and explaining the paranormal logic or magic behind these scenes.
Character-wise, I did not connect with Judas and his friends. Judas felt like the stereotypical aging rocker who has a much younger groupie girlfriend. Marybeth, his girlfriend, felt like a slightly more original character, but only slightly. The best characters in my opinion were Judas’s dogs and Marybeth’s grandma. I just love a badass no-nonsense grandma character.
I was slightly disappointed in Heart-Shaped Box, but only because Joe Hill’s newer works are just better. He’s definitely improved as an author, and I would still highly recommend NOS4A2. I will definitely be reading The Fireman and Strange Weather by him in the future.