I confess to initially deciding to pick up Heart-Shaped Box because Joe Hill is my favourite horror writer’s son – but as early as one chapter in, I was hooked on Hill solely by virtue of Hill himself. He is a brilliant writer, and this book in particular made me shiver in fear for days afterwards. It was HSB that sold me on his skills as a writer, and had me raving about it at work. Immediately after I finished it, I hunted for and devoured Horns, one of his other novels. My lovely co-worker Nikki gave me the first volume of Locke and Key for a Christmas present, feeding my addiction and cementing Hill’s status in my mind as one of the best writers of the genre.
Heart-Shaped Box made me feel unsafe in the deepest pit of my stomach. Even as my mind rationally knew and understood that this was all wordplay, that none of this was real, the experience of reading it left me thoroughly unsettled in the best way possible.
“He glanced down at the ghost, and at the same time the dead man lifted his head and his eyes rolled open. But where his eyes belonged was only a black scribble. It was as if a child had taken a Magic Marker—a truly magic marker, one that could draw right on the air—and had desperately tried to ink over them. The black lines squirmed and tangled among one another, worms tied into a knot.”
(Excerpt: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill; he is only the second writer to keep me up at night and is shaping up to be even better than the first one.)