Sunday, May 18, 2008

50 Book Challenge #28: Heart-Shaped Box

Not the Nirvana song, the book. It's a horror novel, and the author is Stephen King's son, who tried a little to conceal his identity, but without much effect. The book ended up being a bestseller, which is deserved considering how well it fulfills the requirements of the genre.

The premise is simple: guy buys a ghost on Ebay, ghost turns out to be bent on revenge. The scares are effective, and the choice to have a death or two near the beginning of the book lets us know that's Hill is in earnest. The ending could have been silly but is instead fairly disturbing, although (sort of spoiler) the drawing a doorway to another dimension bit seemed a little cliched and I'm pretty sure we've seen that in one of his father's novels. The prose is nothing exceptional, but even that is saying something, considering the painfully bad writing prevalent in many genre works.

Characterization is less consistently good. The protagonist, an aging, broody death-metal guitarist, manages to be a relatively likable despite his commission of several deplorable acts. The flavor-of-the-month groupie who happens to be living with him when this all goes down remains pretty flat. The female character with the most depth is the groupie's predecessor, who is unfortunately dead and therefore MIA for most of the novel. Overall, though, this is a decent piece of popular fiction and well above the average for horror novels. Recommended for people who value plot and chills.
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