I timidly purchased the 2007 Joe Hill novel "Heart Shaped Box" a week ago, achingly desperate to find a simple, contemporary horror tale to sate my "the weather is getting gloomier" appetite, and I am completely satisfied by my selection. "Heart Shaped Box", at least, 68 pages in, is a moody little tale starring a protagonist I find has both mass appeal and a particular interest to my darker sensibilities. Hell, the novel opens describing his collection of macabre and morbid artifacts such as John Wayne Gacy drawings and a trepanned skull. The protagonist's collection of goth girlfriends referred to only by the names of the state they originate from is presently marked by a transparent yet hard-assed Georgian for whom I find myself just as concerned. And then there's the ghost with the squiggly, blacked-out eyes who, after only a few appearances thus far, is already one helluva nightmare! His antics evidence a near omnipotence as yet unhindered in the text, though I've no idea what the remainder of the novel will bring. Though if it's anything like what was delivered after my first marathon read, it will involve anxiety, disquiet and the noticing of an extra creak or two of the floor boards.
Now, this novel is very plainly and simply written, no unique narrative devices, no complex diction, but that doesn't stop it from being effective and well-composed. In fact, it reads similarly to very early Stephen King...oh wait, yeah, that's probably because I discovered only after I purchased the novel that Joe Hill is the son of Mr. King. Which, if anything, purchased Hill a top-notch editor and some (in this case well-deserved) rave reviews. Nonetheless, writing a quality horror novel is in his blood, and at least as far as page 68, Joe Hill delivers.