Monday, April 9, 2007

Heart Shaped Box!

Okay, so everyone else has pretty much adored Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box, and I think the book is doing well enough that he won't be shattered if he gets one mediocre review. Alas, I fear that mediocre review must come from me.

I really loved Sieur Hill's short story compilation, Twentieth Century Ghosts. The stories contained therein were genuinely disturbing, horrific, and hard to forget. When I heard he had a novel coming out, I was pretty excited. It's hard to find good horror, I think. It's not a genre that I am super familiar with, but I do enjoy a good horror novel, but it seems to me that the mainstream horror bookshelves are not overloaded with really excellent stuff. Initial word of mouth on Heart Shaped Box was pretty strong, and I picked up a copy as soon it hit the stores.

The premise was promising: a heavy metal musician with exotic taste in women and collectibles buys a ghost over the internet (not from Ebay, but from some lesser auction site). Alas, the ghost proves to be a bit hard to handle, and quickly gets a little bit too personal in his haunting. Rock star, groupie girlfriend and two dogs end up in a duel to--not the death, but something worse.

But somehow the promising premise just didn't hit me where I live. I'm not sure why exactly--to go into details would be to give away too much of the plot, which I don't want to do here. Others loved it, so perhaps I'm just not attuned to that type of horror, but the various elements that were trotted out as horrific--even mixed with supernatural stuff--are, alas, too common in today's world--open any newspaper and you read the life-stories of most of Hill's characters on page 1. The banality of evil.

So maybe the problem is not me, or Joe Hill, perhaps the problem is today's world. You have to go further out on a limb if you want your horror to be rooted in reality. We are too jaded--I'm too jaded.

Perhaps you are not so jaded, in which case you'll probably like A Heart Shaped Box. I fear it's too late for me.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm with you on this one, although I almost don't feel it's fair for me to opine on horror since I'm so NOT a kinda-sewer of the genre. Also, my tepid reaction may be partly due to the circumstances under which I bought the book: I usually pick up every first novel I hear about more or less automatically as a way to support new writers, give 'em encouragement as well as a financial return. I really hesitated on this one because of my ambivalence about horror, but I figured Joe Hill (great name of sentimental value to this lifelong lefty) "needed" me. When I found out the dude is Steven King's son I have to admit I felt a little manipulated by whatever powers-that-be decided to keep this fact under wraps. I wouldn't have bought the book if I'd known, because I would've figured he had a huge ready-made audience already, including folks who were just curious about what SK's son is capable of as well as horror fans. I've never read a Steven King novel, so I don't know how his son lives up to that daunting legacy. I do know that I wasn't scared by Heart Shaped Box. I considered this a very good thing at the time, but hard-core horror fans probably won't. The scariest thing I've ever read was The Handmaid's Tale. Now THAT is seriously blood-curdling!