Do you believe in Ghosts? Do you believe dead can communicate? Do you believe they can plot / plan and execute revenge? Do you believe that people can hold grudges in life so close to their hearts that they can plan revenge post their own death?
These are the questions, you need to be prepared to answer or face while you read "Heart Shaped Box" by Joe Hill. In his very first novel, the son of legendary novelist Stephen King tries to handle a genre, in which his father is considered to be the most skillful master. Though, it is not fair, the comparison is unavoidable. Let me be frank, if you are a fan of SK's novels, and you expect a bone chilling, creeping up on you scare... you will be disappointed. But don’t dismiss his just coz he is not like his father... rather, it’s THE thing that should keep you glued to this debut.
In his very first novel Joe Hill, does an excellent job of giving you a skillfully designed plot revolving around an ageing rock legend, buying a ghost and getting a lot more than what he paid for. The plot itself is gripping and in contrast to your expectations of secrecy, like a typical SK novel which are filled with a slow chill creeping up your body from the toes of your foot to the brain... this one comes clean about having a ghost. Joe does not tread the suggestive and indicative path waiting for a psychological grip to creep up on you. His in your face approach is equally shocking and nerve wrecking. The pace at which events happened in Heart Shaped Box is shocking...to say the least. For example the first appearance of the ghost in the novel is done in an entirely acceptable way. There is no drama, no shouts and not fast paced response. Just a simple statement, and a sound, and silent acceptable statement.
It is this in-your-face approach that is the highlight of the Heart Shaped Box and I believe that’s the scoring point for Joe Hill.