Thursday, May 9, 2013

Heart-Shaped Box: When I'm tired, I turn into a stuffy Englishman

It occurs to me, as I sit down to write this, that I am quite alone in my domicile with most of the lights off. Surely, I fear no power in this life or the next.

This was a poor decision.

And now that I’ve turned on every light in the house and woken the dogs so they can bear witness to my continued well-being, let us proceed forthwith.

Jude Coyne is a 50-something rock star (of the black metal variety, I believe?) who has semi-retired to a farm in New York because 50% of his original band is kaput (as in tragically dead, because rock stars). And Jude just lazes around his farmhouse, playing music when he feels like it and collecting artifacts of the macabre—for example, “the skull of a peasant who had been trepanned in the sixteenth century, to let the demons out.” (I mean, BIG deal, right? I have a collection of Princess Aurora figurines, which has been known to scare away the most manly of men. So.) But one day, Jude’s assistant, knowing Jude is into this sort of thing, informs him that someone is selling a ghost on an auction site. Jude jumps on THAT deal, throwing down $1,000 for someone’s dead stepfather—more precisely, for someone’s dead stepfather’s favorite suit. As promised, the suit arrives in a heart-shaped box (GET IT?) . . . followed in due course by its dead owner, who proceeds to make very clear that his mission in death is to drag Jude down into the fiery pits of hell.

I don't like this game anymore.

Considering Joe Hill’s lineage, I went into this book expecting something Stephen King–adjacent. And that’s . . . yeah, that’s pretty much what it was. As far as paranormal thrillers go, it’s not remarkably original; it is equal parts creeptastic and eye-roll inducing. Dogs figure pretty heavily into the story, which stressed me out more than a Westboro Baptist parishioner at a funeral. (Take the humans. SPARE THE DOGS!) But if I take off my Book Snob chapeau—won’t be a moment . . . just let me detach all these bobby pins—I can tell you that I lost sleep over this book and read it almost straight through instead of doing other things I should have been doing, like going to work. It hooked me, curse its eyes.

One notable aspect of this book, and one that maybe elevates it above the common paranormal thriller fare for me, is that Jude is introduced as this womanizing ex-rocker who cycles through one 20-something goth groupie after another, stripping them of their identities so thoroughly that he calls them by the name of their home state rather than their given name. This naturally sets up Jude’s live-in, ex-stripper goth-groupie-of-the-moment, Georgia, as nothing more than her bullet points imply. And then Mr. Hill flips that framework on its head, and the women (all the women) are so much more than they appear to be at first glance. Some of them are much better; some of them are much, much worse. But all of them are MORE. And so is Jude if you give him half a chance.

What I assume was supposed to be the twist ending was not so very twisty . . . but then this OTHER thing happened, and I was like, “I DO say, old bean. I had anticipated a completely different occurrence at this juncture.”


  1. I highly enjoyed the monocled tone held throughout this. Also this has made me want to read Stephen King? Which has been a thing I've been kind of saying since meeting Alley and Laura, but THIS MIGHT BE THE TIPPING POINT. I'd also like to point out I am currently full of hubris and assuming I will not, in fact, be scared by a book (despite most definitely having been so before).

  2. "which stressed me out more than a Westboro Baptist parishioner at a funeral." Have I told you lately that I love you? Because I do. I super love you.

    My thoughts on Joe Hill are basically 'Well, if writing skills are genetic, then he has 'em!' and ALSO that I kind of want to leave his books until I've read all of his dads' so that when I feel bereft I can go 'well, this is almost as good!' So yes.

    Side note: If this does actually make Alice go and read some Stephen King, then it is absolutely the most worthwhile book you've ever read. I'm deadly serious right now.

  3. I know Laura already pointed this out, but bravo Madame on your Westboro Baptist comment. You are wonderful.

  4. For SOME reason, I find it difficult to picture you reading Stephen King. Also, I find it hilarious that I was the tipping point, seeing as I've read exactly ONE Stephen King book and it was only because I found it in the drawer of the reception desk where I was working and I had nothing better to read. A ringing endorsement, I'm sure.

  5. I gotta say, I was a little nervous about that comparison. People and their righteous indignation, you know? So thank you for setting my mind at ease.

    I think you're thoughts on Joe Hill are pretty reasonable, and I also think that Alice is reading something by Stephen King. *bows*

  6. You and Laura: at least two people I didn't offend by making a Westboro Baptist joke.

  7. Also, thanks for not being offended that I basically made fun of English people throughout this post.

  8. I've just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the hottest virtual strippers on my desktop.