Joe Hill: Horns

I started reading Horns with one of those ebook free sample chapters. Hill hooked me with his first four sentences:

Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances. He was so ill — wet-eyed and weak –that he didn’t think anything of it at first, was too hungover for thinking or worry.
But when he was swaying above the toilet, he glanced at himself in the mirror over the sink and saw he had grown horns while he slept.

I love this setup — how it establishes the narrative perspective is at least somewhat unreliable — Ig only clearly recalls those “terrible things” as the novel approaches its dénouement — without making it clear exactly how unreliable it is. And I love how the story unfolds. Ig soon discovers that other people react oddly to his horns as well. The reader soon discovers a lot of backstory — like that a year ago Ig’s girlfriend dumped him, then turned up dead after he spent the night in a blackout drunk.

I didn’t think it was perfect — there are multiple plot revelations in the “now you have to re-evaluate what you thought you knew” category; and I had a credibility gap with at least one: I can kinda maybe almost sorta see how that course of action would’ve made sense to that character in that situation? Well, no, not really. I’m also a little iffy on the shifts of tone. Horns is unsettling throughout, but mostly I’d classify it as “dark fantasy” more than “horror.” A few notably grisly sequences are thematically appropriate and clearly required by the plot, but I might have preferred to have them described with a touch more subtlety.

But these are really minor quibbles. Mostly I thought this was terrific — strong characters, vivid and flavorful prose, and startling and fresh takes on some classic horror/fantasy thematic elements.

This novel and the first of Hill’s Locke and Key graphic novels have converted me into a Hill completist.

needs more demons? negatory.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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