Joe Hill is a pseudonym. Most everyone, editors and the book-reading public, know that he’s actually Stephen King’s son. It was never a well-kept secret except when he was doing award-winning short stories. His skill as a writer, a good writer, was a better kept secret because as everyone knows very few short story writers really get a lot of notice.
All that changes with the publication of that new writer’s first novel if he or she hits one out of the park. Joe Hill has done exactly that with his first book.
The premise of Heart-Shaped Box is deceptively simple. It sucked me right in. Imagine in this day and age of being able to buy anything and everything on-line that you could buy a ghost. What kind of ghost would you get? A chain-rattler? A friendly ghost?
More than likely, you wouldn’t get what you were planning on. And if the characters had in the novel, the excitement and borrowed fear would never have kicked in.
Even with a premise like this, I wasn’t convinced that Joe Hill, no matter whose son he was, could pull off an entertaining story. Even with the legacy and the premise, I put off getting the book for a while.
And for time, while reading the novel, I wasn’t convinced I’d spent my money wisely. Of course, book readers aren’t so much worried about the money they spend on a book as much as they are the time they spend on a book. I just don’t get that many free evenings to read, and each one is precious to me.
Hill’s prose flows smoothly but he didn’t seem to be going anywhere very fast at the beginning of the book. I got bored from time to time and just wished he would get on with the story. To make matters worse, I didn’t like his main characters.
Judas Coyne, called Jude by his friends, is an aging rock-and-roller whose days on a stage are gone. He’s in his early fifties and has become pretty much a social cripple. He’s not interested in meeting people anymore and he has all the money he needs. The only thing they gets him up in the mornings is his dogs.