“Heart-Shaped Box,” by Joe Hill — READ IT.
This book has been on my radar for a few years, in part for the very reason Joe Hill likely uses a pseudonym — so he didn’t get compared to his dad. Sorry, Stephen King’s son. It’s true I picked up your book because of your dad. It’s also true that I loved your book and found it very un-Stephen-King-like. You’re a spectacular writer in your own merit. “Horns” is now on my list.
That being said … of COURSE I looked for bits of King in there. How could I not? I found them in some really interesting plot and word choices:
- King likes to use lines like “They never saw each other again,” or “Craig had no way of knowing it would be the last time he spoke to Melinda.” In this description, it sounds cheesy. In action, however, the technique makes the reader freak out. I want to disbelieve the sentence. “Clearly, you’re fooling me!” It’s like a little bit of foreshadowing that can drive a reader nuts — in a wonderful way. Hill does this once, and it made me grin because of the King’ness of it. Then it made me say, “NO! You’re lying to me, right???”
- This may be in my mind because I recently read “Bag of Bones.” But I feel the ending of “Heart-Shaped Box” was a little “YOU’RE WRONG” to King. (The rest of this bullet is a spoiler alert. If you want to read “Heart-Shaped Box,” skip to the next bullet). “Bag of Bones” ends with a little note where King essentially tells the reader, “Sorry I had to kill the girl. But the age difference between her and the protagonist was too creepy for me to allow the relationship to work out.” I saw the happily-ever-after resolution of Jude’s relationship with Marybeth to be a little “Heh, heh!” to his dad.
- When there’s stabbing involved, King likes a particular stab wound: Across the face, at the corners of the mouth, creating an insanely creepy clown grin. Hill uses this.
And that’s it for the comparisons that Hill so wanted to avoid. His style reminded me much more of Michael Koryta’s “So Cold the River” than any particular King novel. That is to say, Hill writes briefly. The book is a quick read that absorbs you completely. It takes place over a relatively short span of time, given the length of the book (376 pages), and the story is absolutely riveting.
P.S. If I didn’t know Hill was King’s kid going in, I might have figured it out by the author’s picture. I mean, come on.