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  • Heart-Shaped Box

  • Written by: Joe Hill
  • Narrated by: Stephen Lang
  • Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (150 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals...a used hangman's noose...a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is widely known. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, a thing so terrible-strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet.

I will sell my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder.

For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn't afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts: of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What's one more? But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost. It's the real thing.

And suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door...seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang...standing outside his window...staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting - with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand.

A multiple award-winner for his short fiction, author Joe Hill immediately vaults into the top echelon of dark fantasists with a masterwork brimming with relentless thrills and acid terror.

©2007 Joe Hill (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers

What the critics say

  • Audie Award winner, Thriller/Suspense, 2008
  • Thriller Award, Best Novel, 2008

"Powerful....[Hill's] subtle and skillful treatment of horrors that could easily have exploded over the top and out of control helps make this a truly memorable debut." (Publishers Weekly)
"Mr. Hill elicits honest empathy for Jude, who turned his stage persona into a nightmare version of his fears and must now figure out what strength he has left for legitimate battles. This dynamic is both frightening and funny, and the book weaves together those two threads in clever ways." (The New York Times)

What listeners say about Heart-Shaped Box

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Jury Still Out

This was the first book by Joe Hill I've had the pleasure of consuming. I enjoyed his writing, descriptive without being frilly or monotonous. His characters are well developed and very human with real, believable problems even though they're supernatural problems, they're introduced so well they're almost believable too.
The narrator did well with the reading, giving the proper tone to a horror novel and voicing all characters.
My only complaint is the MUSIC that just randomly pops up at the end of a part. WTH!? Whoever decided to stick music into a narrated novel needs a smack.
I want to say more about the novel and how wonderful it is, but I'm so angry about that music scaring the crap out of me it's all I can really remember about it.

5 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing, Difficult to Enjoy

Hill has written better stories, and better characters. Worst thing about this audiobook is the voice actor. He gives this dull, slow, low-affect reading throughout the whole book. I lost track of what was going on at several points because the reading is so flat. Sometimes I could hear Lang reading through a yawn and while holding in a sneeze. Exacerbating the situation was Lang's strange approximation of a woman's voice, with very little variation between female characters. In a book where characters are possessed, you might have to rewind to catch when the change starts because his voice doesn't change if they're women.
Lastly, there's this sudden loud "rock-esque" riff that plays between sections. It doesn't fade in, and almost cuts off the voice actor in sections. Halts any immersion you might have managed.

Re-Record this, and maybe it'll be worth readers' time and credits.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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pretty good

Reminded me of Dean Koontz, with his magic dogs and brilliant lights from doors to the afterlife. ending seemed kindof slapped together. still a good listen.

2 people found this helpful

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Music was distracting

The book was good- but the sporadic music was distracting - I noticed multiple reviews mentioning it- and didn’t think it could be that bad. But it really was. It makes the book feel cheap and cheesy- had nothing to do with the overall tone of the book- just shakes you out of the moment.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Ok, what??

This book is definitely creepy! The narrator did a fantastic job adding to the “scary” element. I had to stop listening a few times when it was dark haha. 10/10 recommend

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Creepy

Creepy story, well built up story line until the last chapters which fall flat of the surmounting tension this thriller develops over the course of the book. Still worth a listen for the thriller/horror fans.

1 person found this helpful

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dnf

I got halfway through the audiobook and realized that I had no interest in the story or the characters. The more I listened the more I hated it. The narration was horrible and his female voice was laughable. I can't forget to add the bizarre and immersion breaking blasts of music. I know this is a very good book from a great author but unfortunately it failed to keep me interested.

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  • K
  • 2021-06-28

Ended well

Had a bit of trouble getting into this story…seemed to drag for the first 1/3…but then picked up…and excellent storyline. Creative, with some excellent “ewwwww…!” moments. Glad I stuck it through. Worth the listen.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Very entertaining but not his best

Not the best of Joe Hill but still very enjoyable. Perfect ending. The narrator was great but the weird music was terrible. I feel like someone hated their boss and wanted to see what ridiculous shit they could get away with for their last job. Seriously what was that weird misplaced techno bullshit? Totally distracting but did add a bit of hilarity to seriously moments.

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bugs

nasty bugs in my recording caused a lot of skips. really messed up a perfectly good book.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lesley
  • 2007-02-23

Yikes! Five stars for fright

I bought this book for the concept: a dead man's suit that comes with a ghost. I figured it would be good and scary, and I wasn't wrong.

I read a lot of stories that I think are going to be scary, but then I'm disappointed when it turns out the monster really isn't much of a monster. But parts of Heart-Shaped Box scared me so much I could barely listen, even in a brightly-lit health club with dozens of other people there.

I won't describe any of those sections for fear of spoiling other readers' fun. Let's just say that some stuff happens that scares even the main character--a guy who owns a cookbook for cannibals.

Although this book is frightening, and a thriller, the writing doesn't suffer. All the characters had fully realized story arcs, even some of the minor ones who turned out later to be more important than they seemed at first.

I particularly liked the main character, Judas Coyne. Even though he has apparently been mean to others through some of his life, I found him fairly easy to sympathize with through most of the action. By the end of the book he'd won me over--I was cheering for his side all the way.

The production of the audiobook itself was good, too. The narrator did a fine job, even with voices for female characters, which is often hard for a guy. Between sections, there are a couple of musical breaks--the first one startled me, but only because I wasn't expecting it.

I definitely recommend this one for people who don't mind a good scare. I hope Joe Hill has some more on the way.

232 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Patricia
  • 2007-11-30

Disturbing

Intricately written and extremely descriptive, this story leaves you wondering who the real victims/villains are...the roles are not clearly defined and each character crosses back and forth across the line of decency. Yet, it becomes fairly evident 'who's the evilest one of all' as the book progresses...but then what?

This book was clearly written by someone who knows his way around character development. My main criticism is that the reader was tediously slow in his reading and could have done more to act out the characters. I had to put my IPOD speed to "faster" just so I wouldn't give up because of the slow pace. Not sure if this was all the fault of the reader, but most of it probably was. It's well worth listening to, but at times will give you an uneasy feeling, so I'm not sure that I would put this book in my top 5 favs.

75 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-10-06

Wtf is up with the crappy techno music between chapters?!

This isn’t my favorite Joe Hill book, but it’s pretty good. However there is this generic techno miso that intermittently pops up between some chapters. It is jarring and out of place. It really takes you out of the story, and makes the whole thing feel cheesy.

46 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Laura
  • 2012-05-10

Wonderful!

I can't remember when I have enjoyed a book as well as this one. The story is one that has left me with chills and the characters are not only entertaining but realistic. The reader is just outstanding and really pulls the listener into the story. I loved this book, would highly recommend.

44 people found this helpful

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  • Susan
  • 2014-10-07

Nightmare in a suit

I could not put this one down. As good as NOS4A2 just not as freaky/creepy. This was a crazy, paranormal, mystery served with a little romance on the side. Joe Hill is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors because of his ability to keep a good steady pace along with original stories in each of his books.

Jude is a rock star that loves to collect macabre objects until one day when he purchases a Heart Shaped Box that sends his whole life into a tailspin. Unfortunately everyone in his life is drawn into his treacherous paranormal, nightmare that may just suck them all down the death road. Great, sinister, October read with believable characters and top notch narration.

41 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amanda H.
  • 2011-08-14

Spooky, Creepy, and Smart!

One word comes to mind after listening to Heart-Shaped Box.....TALENT! The book was extremely spooky and creepy. The characters are well written with depth. Had a hard time pausing the book, I did not want to leave the story or characters.

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Victoria
  • 2007-02-19

Keep the lights on!

I bought the book because it was Joe Hill, who is Stephen King's son, and I was prepared to be disappointed. He has, after all, nearly impossible shoes to fill. But I wasn't disappointed!

I don't read much that really scares me, but this book was chilling. From the very first chapter, where an aging rockstar buys a ghost on a not-e-bay auction site, it simply doesn't stop. The characters of the book are believable and well-defined, and the plot is unpredictable.

31 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jonathan
  • 2009-11-10

A well-crafted thriller

I agree with those who have compared this book favorably with Stephen King's work. Hill does an excellent job of creating fully fleshed-out characters and a viscerally chilling narrative, using a very accessible prose. I didn't love the ending, and I thought the paranormal stuff verged on silly at times, but it's still a very entertaining read. Solid narration by Mr. Lang, too.

24 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Sabrina
  • 2013-04-15

Not scary.

Has Heart-Shaped Box turned you off from other books in this genre?

Maybe not from the genre, but certainly from the author.

Which scene was your favorite?

None.

Any additional comments?

I had read numerous reviews about this book to make sure I would not be wasting my money, but the reviews were misleading. This book was touted as being intensely frightening and scary, but it was neither. I found it boring and silly, not in the least bit terrifying. It felt more like a short story that was stretched much too far in order to make it into a novel. Incredibly boring and not worth my time.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • BarbieA1
  • 2007-12-01

Boring and tedious

I simply can't finish this book. It's dark and disturbing. But that's not the reason I can't finish it... It's because I'm about 1/3 of the way through and frankly I could care less about the protagonist. I'm sure as the story proceeds one might grow to care or at least become interested in Jude.

However I can't stick it out that long. The author/narrator reads like a reduced-speed automaton (which has been programmed to sound ominous) and the female characters all sound mentally challenged.

The narration, along with the boring protagonist, don't provide the motivation I need to muddle through this dark story.

The author is otherwise a talented writer. I wish his success with his next effort.

22 people found this helpful