Hill's freshman novel does something that countless aspiring horror novelists dream of doing and yet so frequently come just short of accomplishing - it channels the spirit of his father, while speaking in a voice all its own.
At the book's strongest moments, that voice is the gravely baritone of Judas Coyne as he slowly changes from a grizzled and septic ex-rock-god into a grizzled yet tendered ex-rock-god. It's a slow and trudging arc, and it costs Judas and his loved-ones more than most would be able to bear, but it's a fulfilling evolution from someone we immediately disdain to someone we can at least be happy for. That he is spiritually redeemed (so to speak) by the strength and will of two women he learns he's loved too little is also a slow, quiet thing that at times ventures into the realm of objectification, though that's just another hurtle that Judas must confront in his fight for salvation from his haunting - both by his literal ghost and by his own inner ghosts. It's also worth noting that those women don't need Judas to save them from anything, even though he couldn't save them even though he wants to.
I wouldn't say that the book was at any point "frightening." More like "unnerving" and "uncomfortable," which is a fine thing for a horror novel to be, especially when, as is the case with Heart-Shaped Box, the foul things that are most unnerving are not paranormal in nature, but horrifically human. Abuse. Deceit. Deep, plummeting regret and the fear of harming another unwittingly. These are repugnant and all-too real in our world, and they pull at our gut just as they pull at Judas'.
What brings this particular presentation of Hill down a peg for me is purely in the narration. Not that Lang doesn't do a satisfactory job at reading the general prose - I found his voice quite soothing and level, actually. That was part of the problem in parts, though - he was far too level, especially when the story calls for the characters to be terrified, or in reeling pain, or an inch from death. He picked a voice for each character, and then stuck to it unflinchingly, in all but one case. His voice of the ghost Craddock is all over the place, beginning as a low, rumbling Right-Wing Televangelist's Georgia-drawl and ending with a wispy, old prospector's bark. Again, it's a slow transition, but one that was never warranted or earned. It felt like he simply forgot how he began recording that particular voice by the end of the novel.
There are other minor quirks I have that keep this from being a full-fledged classic in my heart - the too-neatly-wrapped-up ending, the reasoning behind the survival of a particular character, a few inconsistencies of paranormal rules and expectations - but on the whole, a book that is almost a classic is far and away better than most books published.
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This isn't my favourite, but it is still a good story.
Good story, good narrator. But N0S4A2, and Horns are better!
His political use of evil main character as a "Rush Limbaugh"" talk radio"" religious" right winger. Sick and tired of the hate.
Enjoyed his characters he did a good job.
Deeply sad about the author making the main evil character a political pawn to express his dislike of people who do not follow his liberal views. Not buying anymore of his books.
Creepy, chilling, and creative!
This book has some moments that are truly terrifying!
The narration was terrible. Any normal human emotion or inflection simply does not exist in this reading. The narrator does not grasp the normal human emotion that comes through in a normal person's voice during the most difficult of situations. For narration, the reader has a very low, creepy voice but it carries through throughout the entire book. It is very difficult to 'feel' the characters as the are all so monotone.
The musical breaks were startling. Aside from that, they carried over into the narrator's reading of the story and were very distracting.
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I was looking for a scary book for because it is the Halloween is quickly approaching. I have to admit this book was indeed scary. Joe Hill has a understands how to set the creepy factor high. This is a great book.
The book kept me interested enough though none of the characters were very likable.
I'd recommend it to friends who like easy thrillers.
Joe Hill? YesStephen Lang? No
The narrator sounded like Alfred Hitchcock and was really flat. If the story hadn't have been so interesting I would've returned it.
In the end yes. The story idea was just too good not to listen to the end.
This was one of the scariest! Thanks for the great roller coaster ride!
Creepy and unexpected appearances from a very nasty ghost. There were times when I had to walk away and get some sunlight on my face. Best if listened to when sitting next to your dog.
Judas Coyne - the aging rockstar - he is not a very likeable character at first but as Hill peels away the layers and reveals more of Judas, you begin to root for him.
Good read! I started listening to Hill after reading Horns (another fantastic read!) Looking forward to more and more from him!
a very engaging and entertaining book I loved and hated the characters all at the same time. , I could hear the King influence all through this book and I expect he will only get better . well worth the credit .
I like the premise of the story, but it seemed to be dragged out longer than it needed to be. There seemed to be a lot of 'filler'.
Not as good. I enjoyed Horns much more.
The performance was average, but what really brought it down as a whole was the unnecessary techno musical interludes placed randomly throughout the reading.