To be perfectly honest, I am really not much of a horror fan. In fact, as you may have noticed, I generally tend to go towards fantasy more than anything else. On some occasions though, when I see a horror novel that truly appeals to my interests, I cannot help but pick it up. Horns is just such a novel. Joe Hill’s second novel to date (the other being Heart-Shaped Box), Horns is also the first I’ve read by him or even heard of him for that matter. He is one of the authors most cited as being on the rise in the horror genre, with good reason.
Blurb: Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician, the younger brother of a rising late night TV star. Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic. Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – and Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, he was and always would be guilty. Now Ig is possessed of horns, and a terrible new gift to go with his terrible new look – he knows the worst secrets and darkest desires of everyone he meets. He means to use his new power to find whoever killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.
Hill very quickly adds the “horns” element to the story, yet he manages to keep away from making it the true center of the story. Instead of concentrating the narrative on Ig’s discovery of his talents, acquired through the growth of horns, he chooses to advance the plot (Ig’s continuously worse life + the truth of past events) and to gradually throw in information about his abilities as they come up. I liked that a lot. It allowed for a more flowing story and greater interest in its events. So, Hill nicely incorporates the horror elements and feels in the book while keeping the reader entertained by the other elements of the story.
Ig is an interesting character, but that obviously did not come on from the very beginning. There are some characters that you immediately relate to and want to hear more from and there are others that give you more of a “meh” sort of interest level. At the beginning of Horns, Ig belongs in the latter category. My interest in him certainly did pick up, or else I don’t think finishing this book would have been an option, but Hill does seem to take his time making him interesting. Once some of his back-story is established –it takes longer than you’d expect— and we start to learn exactly why Ig is so morose, not to mention what he did to end up with horns on top of his head (more of idea of what he did really, but still) then Ig becomes definitely one of my favorite characters. He can be at the same time both brutal and demonic and yet be fragile and somewhat naïve, if a man accused of rape and murder can ever be called naïve…
Joe Hill’s writing is pretty much impeccable, with a harsh and straight forward to it. He does not shy away from recounting scenes and settings as they were, or as he wants the reader to see them, without embellishing them needlessly, since, after all, it is a horror book. Speaking of which, Hill masterfully creates moments that truly give you the full feel of a horror novel as it is at its core without the often added gore and blood—thought there remains some great action and violence. His pacing and plotting is just as meticulous; it dragged me along the whole way, never knowing exactly where the story was going but making me desperately want to know.
A great read for those that typically enjoy the horror genre, though I would also recommend it to any that want to give that genre a try. I think this is perhaps one of the better horror books I have read, regretfully few though they are. I mentioned this above but I feel I must mention it again: Joe Hill is really a great author and is, understandably, one of the most looked to as a rising star of the genre. Look out for more of his novels as soon as they come out.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Violence: Yes some, it is horror
Sex/Language: Lots of language and quite a bit of sex—a central element is the rape of the main character’s ex-girlfriend…
Joe Hill's Website: http://www.joehillfiction.com/