Horns by Joe Hill
Back in October, I fancied dipping into a horror novel. Aside from a few teenage forays into King and Herbert, I’m something of a stranger to the genre, but Joe Hill’s work has appealed to me for a while now. I own both Horns and Heart-Shaped Box, but decided to go with Horns as it was the subject of the group read on a forum I participate in.
The main impression I had of the majority of the book was “meh.”
It’s unfortunate: Horns actually starts off very promisingly. Hill throws us right in at the deep end by having the protagonist, Ig, discover his new predicament – that a nice sharp pair of horns have begun growing out of his forehead – on the very first page. He then proceeds with the story logically and rapidly, with Ig taking a visit to the walk-in centre and accidentally discovering the side-effects of his new pointy accessories: that people he talks to now confess their darkest desires to him without prompting. Worse still, when he makes physical contact with a person, he can see every dark secret and every nasty thing they’ve ever done. However, this quickly becomes repetitive, with every single person he meets wanting to either hurt or have sex with someone they know.
After learning that Ig’s girlfriend was murdered a year ago, we’re then treated to long sequences of flashbacks from the early days of their relationship. I have to admit that much of this had me sighing and flicking forward to see when each chapter would end. However, much later on in the book, the flashbacks do become quite poignant, as they reveal just how tragic and probably avoidable many of the events really are. I wasn’t overly-enamoured with Ig as a protagonist, but began to like him more towards the end of the book, when the pace picked up and he began to embrace his new knowledge.
I’m a bit disappointed that Horns wasn’t actually scary in any way –after all, I only really picked it up because I fancied a good scare – but it makes up for a lot of that in dark imagery and even blacker humour. It’s not spectacular – in fact, I think it’s one of the weaker books I’ve read this year – but it’s a fairly short, easy-to-read novel with a solid story and a great ending.