Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill, Stephen Lang



Joe Hill never rushes a story and he's sure in no hurry in "Heart-Shaped Box".


What I'm enjoying most about this book is the how character-driven it is.


The plot so far is simple: complacent, rich goth rock star buys a ghost on the internet that turns out to be the real thing and which seems intent on harming him. 


The plot is not the story. The story is about the self-discovery of Judas Coin.


He's a man who doesn't like himself much but who also doesn't feel a need to do anything about that. He's built a comfortable, unchallenging, mostly empty life for himself and is happy to roll with it. Until the ghost arrives and brings his life into focus.


At the start of the book, we're given the take-it-all-for-granted it-is-what-it-is view of Coin's life. Yet, even then, things snagged my attention. Coin has lived with a string of young goth women half his age. He shares that he has trouble remembering their names so he names them after their State of origin. He calls his current bedmate Georgia. He knows the women don't like this because most of them want to forget where they came from but he does it because it's easy and because they let him. Even on a first pass, this made me think Coin was an asshole. As the story progresses and Coin's fate becomes linked to a Florida, a young woman he threw away when he was done, it finally occurs to Coin that he's behaved like a shit, just because he can. The slow shift in Coin's self-perception is skilfully done.


The ghost is deeply menacing. On the one hand, I'm fairly sure the ghost is there. On the other hand, as Coin himself says, perhaps ghosts live only in the heads of the haunted. Either way, Coin is set to suffer. As far as I can see, he deserves it.