Heart-Shaped Box (Joe Hill as read by Stephen Lang) 4*

Heart-Shaped BoxIf you look at the category tags, there’s nothing for horror because I never read horror.  Actually, I don’t even know what horror is.  Is it the feeling I get when I gaze too long at Danielle Steele cover art?

It’s kind of a fun word to say, like Hodor.*

Anyway, Heart-Shaped Box is super fun, and I’m just going to call it fantasy because it contains magic and is therefore not science fiction.  Judas Coyne is an aging rock star living off royalties from past glories.  “Royalties” include goth-girl groupies who still think it’s awesome to be Judas Coyne’s girlfriend; he calls them Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, or wherever they happen to be from because it’s too much of a bother to learn a girl’s name.

Jude collects squicky things, and one day an anonymous e-mail suggests that he might be interested in a ghost for sale.  He buys it off of eBay in an admirably smooth transaction, only to discover (to his horror!) that the auction had been set up specifically so that he, Judas Coyne, could buy the ghost of an eccentric hypnotist.

In other words, this particular hypnotist knew Jude.  And Florida killed herself last year.

Vengeance, guilt, adventure, redemption…YAY!!!  It’s so much fun!  I bet Joe Hill is a really good driver.  He seems to know exactly where he’s going and stays just above the speed limit but never gets caught.  The story is nicely coherent (for example, Jude can’t get rid of the ghost because he willingly paid for it) and fundamentally satisfying.  I suppose the book is classified as “horror” due to the vengeful ghost, but the real horrors are the real-life tragedies that Jude finds all around him and deals with the best way he knows how.

On the audiobook, Stephen Lang has a lovely deep voice and excellent dramatic pacing.  Like so many male readers, though, he can’t figure out a good way to do female dialogue.  He doesn’t go falsetto (horrors!) but does the female-voices-are-hesitant schtick.

*What is Hodor actually saying?  Other, honor, horror, mother, father?



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