Horns, by Joe Hill (a short review)


HornsHorns by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Horns is my first Joe Hill book completed (I tried NOS4R2 as an audio book a while back but ran out of time and gave up at checking it out again, so it doesn’t count). Horns is the story of one Ignatius “Ig” Parrish, lovelorn victim of a horrible crime where the love of his life is cruelly and casually raped and strangled to death, and he is blamed for it. Although his actions aren’t specifically stated as a cause of his ensuing problems, when Ig drunkenly smashes the religious figures set out for his girlfriend’s memory after a candlelight prayer vigil, he wakes up the next day with horns. As in the devil kind. Small at first, then larger and and larger as the course of time passes in the book. Ig notices something strange right off the mark. When people encounter the horns, they have a hard time seeing them– as if there is a strong influence on them to forget about them and look elsewhere. Also, when people encounter the Horns, they feel compelled to tell Ig things. Nasty things.. their inner monologue suddenly becomes external. Ig starts to encounter a phenomenon.. people are telling him their dark desires so they can get Ig to “give permission” to do bad things. Initially repulsed, Ig sees the practical side of his newfound power of compulsion, and uses it to help solve his girlfriend’s murder. I won’t give up any more of the plot here, as I’m already treading on spoiler territory.

Suffice to say the murderer is no great surprise, in fact, the book telegraphs it pretty early. The rest of the story unfolds around what Ig can possibly do with that information to extract some measure of justice from the situation. It’s an interesting and sometimes quite funny narrative. I liked the very subtle ending and the notion that Ig may have “fixed things” after all, but there is a lot of that imagery-vs-reality language going on in Ig’s portion of the story. Viewpoints shift between main characters from time to time and the narrative bounces between flashbacks, points of view and sometimes allegorical imagery. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Horns is a fun (not profound) read, and Mr. Hill definitely inherited the storyteller’s gift from his father.

I did catch the movie based on the book on NETFLIX; I can’t recommend it. The story is greatly changed, the killer actually LESS telegraphed and entirely unexplained or hinted at, which made his revelation jarring. Still, if you haven’t read the book you might be amused!

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