What an incredible thriller! I’d never heard of John Hart when I entered to win an advance reading copy in the First Reads program, but now I will make sure to own this book in hardcover, and his previous ones as well.
Iron House reminds me of Grisham’s best novels like The Client and The Firm; not because of the subject matter (any lawyers in this story are bit parts at best), but because of the deep characters and the mysteries they must work through. Hart draws you in to these characters quickly and makes you like and care about them, which makes the novel’s events far more interesting and weighty.
Almost nothing happened in this book, and it seems that the pleasure of this series is its enigmatic nature. Of course, it helps if you make the puzzle something that the reader wants to unravel, which I don’t feel has been done here. Still, I may read the next one just to see if it gets any better.
Rating: 2 out of 5
UPDATE: I keep hearing that you have to pay very close attention while reading this book, because the narrator himself is a liar, and so there’s a lot to figure out. I listened to the audiobook and probably didn’t pay as much attention as is necessary. I’ve also managed to pick up the series of 4 for $2, so I will probably need to try these again at some point when I’m feeling up to a challenge.
I enjoyed reading this novel very much. It is not normally my preferred style, with a well-stocked library full of suspense, horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Maybe it’s that fresh difference that grabbed and held my attention so easily, or maybe I have been introduced to a style of literature that I’d previously considered “not my thing.”
I received this book on coming home from work on a Friday evening, thanks to the First Reads program. That night, I neglected my responsibilities and stayed up late reading the first 90 pages, and have just finished the other 170 after breakfast the following morning — skipping lunch in the process.
A review quoted on the dust jacket calls the book “compelling”, and I think that this is the perfect adjective to describe why I read it so quickly; I found it hard to put the book down for the night and was eager to get back to the life of Henry Cage. The tone is somber and feels very honest and real; perhaps it does not stray far from the author’s own experience, which is generally considered the best way to write, after all.
I found it to be very similar in subject and tone to the song “Fred Jones, Part 2” by Ben Folds. Though the novel surely differs and expands further on the theme of being forced into retirement and the feelings and events that follow, I think the song represents the novel well, and those who enjoy one will likely enjoy the other.
There is the slightest bit of suspense added to the story as well, which is not the main focus of the novel but does create a satisfying ending that might be otherwise absent in this sort of book.
All in all, an unusual but welcome addition to my collection.
The only thing this book has going for it is that it reads very much like an H.G. Wells novel. Otherwise it is mostly boring, with uninteresting characters and both a ridiculous and largely pointless story. Maybe some will be intrigued by a 19th-century-styled science fiction story where the science is actually correct (one must only read The Island of Dr. Moreau to know how easily bad science can render a book laughably terrible), but for me that novelty was not enough to overcome the sheer uselessness of the plot and characters. A disappointing effort from an author I usually enjoy.
As with every short story collection I’ve ever read, the stories themselves can be a bit hit-or-miss; some are exactly the sort you expected — and hoped for — from a particular author, while others are totally uninteresting.
In this case, Joe Hill writes some incredibly compelling and creepy stories. Best New Horror, 20th Century Ghost, Abraham’s Boys, The Cape, and Voluntary Committal are my favorites; The Black Phone and Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead are quite good; the rest range from decent to a couple that are downright pointless. It seems that every short story writer is prone to write the occasional rambling nonsense like Better Than Home that may simply be for a different audience, but do not engage my interest in the least.
Overall though, there are far more great stories than bad ones, and after recently finishing his two novels I can safely say that I am already as big a Joe Hill fan as I am a Stephen King fan, and will eagerly await each new thing he publishes.
I expected a super-powered revenge story, but ended up with far more. Horns is also a story of love, loyalty, friendship, family, and how the things that happen when we’re kids influence who we become as adults.
Joe Hill doesn’t seem to believe in the old cliche of building suspense and horror through slow reveals through the first three quarters of his novel, and finishing with a big climax of terror; maybe because it’s been so overdone that the scariest parts of these are the buildup, which makes it very hard to create a satisfying ending. Stephen King (Hill’s father), much as I love him, is often plagued with this problem.
Instead, Hill jumps right into the meat of the story in the first chapter, grabs your attention, and then once he’s got a firm grip on you, backs off and shows you the humanity of his characters. He shows you who they are, conjures real interest and affection where you didn’t expect it, and takes you on a journey through not only the “scary” scenario, but also through their lives, their strengths and weaknesses, and makes them feel real. This method has all the strength of connection from books like IT and Duma Key without making you wait forever for any idea of what’s going on. Hill used this method in his previous novel, Heart-Shaped Box, but it works even better here.
I do have to say that I think Hill really benefited from learning from his dad’s experience. Horns does things it took years for King to manage. I feel that King fans are bound to love Hill’s writing, as there are plenty of similarities, but he also brings a fresh perspective and style to the work so his work feels more like carrying on a family tradition rather than simple imitation or creating derivative work. I hope Hill can become just as prolific, and if his first two novels (miles beyond King’s first two) are any indication, I may have my wish granted.
Wow, this was WAY better than I was expecting, considering the length and topic. Other reviewers here have said pretty much everything I would; the moral and ethical themes in this book, as well as the insights into his characters’ psyches, are as powerful as anything in the original Ender’s Game.
This is a fantastic companion story to the novels and I’m moving right on to First Meetings in the Enderverse, hoping it’s equally good.
A fun, fast-paced spy novel about the training of a new operative who is tasked with infiltrating a terrorist’s compound and retrieving information about a WMD. Although this is the 3rd book featuring Jonathan and Emma Ransom, it is the first that I’ve read and had no problem understanding the context. In fact, it reads so much like an introductory novel that it seems the series may really start in earnest here.
It was a quick and enjoyable read, though I will say that suspension of disbelief is stretched to the limit as Ransom seems to need only a couple of weeks to go from a doctor to a trained spy. Most everything works out in his favor and convenient situations pile on top of each other throughout the book. Potential reasons for this are hinted at, but if you’re like me and enjoy your fiction when it is both engaging and realistic, this one may not be for you. On the other hand, if you just want a light read that will hold your interest, Rules of Betrayal certainly qualifies.
A simple but fun fantasy novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and yet has a point to make about good and evil. I found the first half of the book to be lacking any character depth or excitement; it reads like a saturday morning cartoon (but then, so does The Hobbit). But then suddenly it gets far more interesting as we get a better sense of what the characters are like and what motivates them. I enjoyed that second half far more, and though most of the ending was fairly predictable, it still held my attention and ended on a note I was not expecting.
I think this book is most suited for teenagers or readers who have not had tons of experience with fantasy. It’s a shallow novel compared to some of the classics but still a good read, especially if your expectations are not set too high by all the rave reviews of this mostly unknown and out-of-print book.