Horns by Joe Hill
Also by this author: Welcome to Lovecraft
Published by HarperCollins on February 16th, 2010
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.
At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.
Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .
Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who 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. . . .
I read this book last year, and decided it was time to review it. It is easily one of my favorite reads last year and really reminded me why I used to read horror. The emotional connection with the characters is superb and really makes the book what it is. And the first few chapters … gah! Prepare for some majorly tense and hard reading. But it’s the type tense and hard reading that you (or at least I) love.
The story is told in multiple timelines. This allows the reader to see the evolution of Ig’s relationships with Merrin and Lee from the very beginning. The other timeline is after Ig gets the horns. Personally, I think interspersing the two worked really well. It kept you from having to read too much of the horrible stuff without a break because really, reading all the post horns story straight through would be awfully grim. Plus reading about the relationships, watching them grow and keeping that fresh in your mind, really makes all the bad stuff have more impact.
I think what I found so disturbing in this book was that some of the events in it seemed more of a possibility in real life than events in a vampire book or a gritty gory fantasy book. Real people doing evil things in a book like this with regular people (before he had horns), in many ways, those are more scary and disturbing to me because they have the potential to be real.
The real beauty of Hill’s writing is that he manages to find that balance where readers truly grasp and feel the horrific aspect of the story, but the humor in it (dark as it may be) really does help balance it. Everything that falls on Ig, it’s just heart wrenching
So much of this book is a horrible tragedy. I honestly can’t think of something that felt so tragic for so long as this did, but it Hill really made it work. The author obviously has no qualms of taking the reader and his characters to the limits, but he also manages to find ways to balance it and keep the reader from feeling like it just went too far and putting the book down.
I absolutely love Joe Hill’s ability to illustrate such horrendous, heart wrenching scenes and balance it with his (somewhat acerbic/macabre) sense of humor. The story is genuinely unexpected, in fact reading it, I think I honestly couldn’t even guess what to expect. The story is dark, disturbing, intense, horrific and wonderfully written. Hill is definitely on my must read list now.