14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Heart-Shaped Box (Paperback)
I'm a big fan of supernatural horror (ie, ghosties!) and when I spotted this as a staff recommendation at my local bookshop I immediately snapped it up and went home to read it.
I loved the premise - a modern tale of an aging rock star who buys a haunted suit on the internet. So simple and so full of narrative promise.
The first few chapters were truly chilling. Jude's first encounter with the ghost - the spirit sitting quietly, head down, in an old chair outside his bedroom, Jude creeping past trying not to be noticed - resulted in a sleepless night for me. The sheer simplicity of the descriptions, the silence and the menace, were very effective. I woke the next morning and wondered if I should read the rest of the novel before sleep, or somewhere a little more public and comforting during the day. However, the remainder - and bulk - of the story, while quite compulsive, lacked the same chill factor. There were wonderful touches - particularly the ways in which the ghost tormented Jude through the radio, TV and even an electrolarynx in a crowded diner and how he climbed out of an old heart-shaped sweet box on the floor of Jude's childhood home - but it was like watching an enjoyable horror movie, enjoying the imaginative thrills but never really feeling terrified, or particularly tense.
For me, one of the narrative's weaknesses was the lack of real fear on the part of the main protagonists. If I had to imagine being relentlessly stalked by a vengeful spirit, determined to kill me and anyone who attempted to help me, I think the fright would kill me long before the ghost did. And this is what I expected to feel when reading the novel. But Jude, whilst seriously ticked off, is more than a match for his adversary. I couldn't relate to him at all or feel scared on his behalf.
Also, early on in the novel a fairly righteous reason is given for the ghost's murderous quest. Through a later twist of sorts, the real reason is revealed, and for me this lessened the novel's impact by further demonising the spirit and absolving Jude of any true wrongdoing.
Although Joe Hill presents Jude as a flawed anti-hero on the road to enlightenment and redemption, I think the novel would have been far more interesting had Jude really deserved what was chasing him.