Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Title: Horns

Author: Joe Hill

Series: N/A

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Gollancz

Summary (from Goodreads)

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.

What’s Good About It

Many many things. Starting with the humour. Despite exploring all the darkest elements of the characters, from minor ones to the major ones, Horns is laugh out loud funny on a number of occasions. I like this combination of horror and humour – not only do they counterbalance each other, ensuring that, even at the darkest moments in the story, you never feel entirely depressed, but the horror is enhanced by the contrast of the humour. A series of horrific events one after the other have a way of dulling you – like you become immune to it. Placing them between the laughs keeps the horror effortlessly fresh.

It’s emotional too. As previously discussed there was one scene in particular that actually made me cry. I think it’s the fact that the characters are so real, so well described and explored – they become like friends you care about, that you are emotionally invested in. And that’s what makes the horror work too. People you don’t care about enduring horrific events is just slash and hack – you have to care about the people before it becomes psychological horror. And the horror in Horns, despite the titular horns, is very very human. It’s the horror of our inner feelings and desires – that nagging fear that people don’t think the same of you as they say – that Joe Hill explores so deftly.

What’s Not So Good

I didn’t really understand the deal with the treehouse, but it was a minor issue (notice how a lot of these ‘not so good’ sections involve me being confused about something? I think this says more about me than the books) and I was quite happy to ride with it with no particular explanation. I just would have liked one to tie off that last loose end.

Rating: 4.5/5

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