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Refreshingly different - the ultimate Goth/rock ghost story.,
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This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
Possibly one of the most romantic stories I've read and I was surprised to find such a complex, modern love story used as the cement to build and hold everything else in place. Works well and I found myself drawn into the relationship between Jude, burnt out middle aged rock star, and his much younger fragile 'Goth' girl. There's even more 'love' in the form of Jude's two dogs. Hill shows a huge amount of emotion building the relationship between man and dog and his themes of animal spirits was more than moving on a couple of occasions. I was surprised by the huge amount of human emotion and warmth in this novel and, to be honest, Heart Shaped Box is much more the story of relationships, and two people on the road to redemption, than it is a horror. In that way I was somewhat disappointed because this just isn't scary, not on any level, though it does possess a decent level of creepiness at the beginning.
The opening sequences of Heart Shaped Box introduce Jude and explain his famous, wealthy, meaningless lifestyle which has left him so bored and jaded he calls his girls by the American State in which they were born rather than by name. He's lost most of everything he ever cared about but, as the plot moves along, a series of reveals opens up a history of abuse and neglect which help explain his mind set and make him easier to like.
When Jude buys a ghost from an online website, yes honestly, events begin to spin violently out of control as a psychotic spirit with the gift of hypnotism closes in and turns Jude's world upside down.
Without a doubt 'the ghost' is vile and the more he's around the more complicated and devious he becomes but; he's a threatening, dangerous character existing mostly in the real world and never becomes demonic or particularly frightening. He didn't scare me and I wasn't frightened by his presence in the novel.
Overall this is a decent novel but it's far from perfect and there are times when Joe Hill goes too far into the surreal and has no way back other than allow his characters to act in ways that are unbelievable and odd. There's also a lot of repetition, padding, that slowed things down to the point I skipped several pages near the midway point.
There's talent here, beyond doubt, and Joe Hill is becoming one of my favourite authors. Just keep in mind Heart Shaped Box is one of his first published works and if you stick with it you'll find more than a decent story with plenty of twists and turns, decent tension and great characters underneath the clumsiness.