Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gothic daddy issues

Book: Heart-Shaped Box
Author: Joe Hill
Published: 2007 (Harper)
Pages: 351

If we’re going on Fiction as a Psyche-Revealer (and it totally is), Joe Hill has daddy issues.
Let’s get the probably-haunted elephant out of the way by mentioning that Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son and writes on the same sort of subjects/themes – more mention of that really soon, I promise. But right now I just want to tell you that none of the father figures in this book are short of psychologically deranged.

Okay. So, Jude’s an aging rock star who buys a dead man’s suit and ends up getting himself and his latest girlfriend haunted until they travel back to the lady who sold them the suit, then back to Jude’s long-fled home in Louisiana, chased the whole time by the stepfather of the girl Jude dated before his current girl.

SPOILER PARAGRAPH: It was the stepfather’s suit, and it looks like at first the former girl committed suicide after Jude dumps her because she’s depressed, but really she was getting ready to write Jude about how the stepdad (a professional hypnotist) hypnotized her and did all sort of ooky abuse to her and her big sister knew and encouraged it and even offered her own daughter up for it. Jude and his current girl basically have to fumble their way into figuring out how to open a portal to the beyond so the abused girl could come back and pull her stepdad back for revenge and destruction in the underworld. END SPOILER PARAGRAPH. Pretty much.

Hill wastes no time getting to the action. Jude was being haunted by seriously page five, and once the stepdad ghost crept on the scene, he took no time at all to keep their lives at a screaming hell until they manage to beat him back like a week and a five-state road trip later. It’s quick but works; the characters flesh out on the move. I like how Jude called his girlfriends nicknames based on where they come from (Florida was the former, Georgia was the current), and I love that he has dogs he’s named after John Bonnom from Led Zeppelin and Angus what’s-his-name (AC/DC) and that the dogs are a big part of their protection but don’t turn into furry mcguffins. Also, I loved that burning the suit does jack shit.

The ending is tied up too neatly in that prologue of generic good quiet life, and none of the story had an extra touch of weird humanity that made me love it, but as mentioned on the AV Club of Hill’s comic series “Lock and Key,” he leaves you with at least one image that will make it a little difficult to go to sleep in a dark, empty, shadow-ridden apartment. This time it was the creepy old guy’s scribbled-out eyes.

Right now, I’m putting it on my bookshelf, but when I run out of room, it will be one to get weeded. 

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