If you were to wander into a bookstore or library, the only two places to find physical books in this day and age, you might be struck with surprise at the large absence of Joe Hill’s 2010 novel Horns. Son of legendary writer Stephen King, Hill is becoming a legend in his own right, penning a handful of novels and his own comic books series entitled Locke and Key. While Horns was well received at its release a few years ago, winning the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, it is really gaining steam right now surrounding the hype of a movie adaptation coming this fall. A trailer released at this years Comic-Con featured Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role, so naturally the movie is receiving massive hype. Upon viewing the trailer for Horns, I must admit, that I too went nuts looking for information and after reading the plot description, was completely mesmerized.
Horns follows a non-linear plot structure, jumping back and forth in time. When the novel starts out we meet our main man, Ignatius Perrish. Ig wakes one morning after a particularly heavy night of drinking to learn he’s grown horns out of the front of his forehead. Given that this is the one year anniversary of his girlfriend Merrin’s death, Ig assumed something would happen, but not this. He spends the rest of his days visiting friends and loved ones, only to discover his horns have come with a power. Apparently they cause everyone exposed to them to be completely honest with him, something he quickly tires from. Instead of ignoring this power, Ig plans to use it to find out how his beloved Merrin was truly killed just one short year ago.
Horns is just all around a fantastic supernatural horror story. Hill tells the tale of Ig in a way that has the reader rooting for him every step of the way. Although Ig is “bad” because he is portrayed with horns, he really doesn’t feel that way. The non-linear plot structure really lends a hand to the quality of the story too. Because of how it is structured, Hill goes back to the past before Merrin was murdered to “touch” (pun intended) on what life was like for her and Ig and also to let the reader in on what really happened the night she died. Hints are dropped in present time and are cleared up in the sections that go to the past; these are the things that really give the story shine.
The characters the reader will care about are really fleshed out too. Using his time explaining the backstory, Hill creates incredibly interesting backstories for each of the main characters, including the history of the story’s villain. Luckily all of this doesn’t come at one time, but is given to the reader in snippets as to prolong the mystery. It’s a known fact all throughout the novel that Ig, Merrin and Lee are old pals, but it’s not until the very end of the story that just about everything is made apparent about their past lives together.
Rating: 9 out of 10 – Horns isn’t your typical horror not. Heck, it’s not a typical novel, period. Joe Hill proves himself as a master of the craft by weaving a novel that’s both hilarious and horrifying. His tale of Ignatius Perrish and his pair of horns is one that’s so fantastically weird, it must be experienced first in paper to fully appreciate and understand it.