June 4, 2010
Horns by Joe Hill
Fiction - Horror/Fantasy
2010 William Morrow
Finished on 5/19/10
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
FTC Disclosure: Received ARC from publisher
Joe Hill has been hailed as "a major player in 21st-century fantastic fiction" (Washington Post); "a new master in the field of suspense" (James Rollins); "one of the most confident and assured new voices in horror and dark fantasy to emerge in recent years (Publishers Weekly); a writer who "builds character invitingly and plants an otherworldly surprise around every corner" (New York Times).
This gifted and brilliantly imaginative author catapulted to bestsellerdom with the chilling Heart-Shaped Box and cemented his reputation with the prizewinning volume of short fiction 20th Century Ghosts. At last, the New York Times bestselling author returns with a relentless supernatural thriller that runs like Hell on wheels. . . .
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. . . .
While not as terrifying as the opening scenes in Heart-Shaped Box, this supernatural thriller is laced with black humor and proves once again that Joe Hill is a masterful storyteller of suspense and horror. I was immediately drawn into the tight narrative and found myself rooting for Ig. I think I even dreamed about the power of his horns!
Maybe, he thought, it would be different with his family. Maybe they would be immune to him, and their secrets would stay secrets. They loved him, and he loved them. Love had to count for something. Maybe he could learn to control it, to turn it off, whatever "it" was. Maybe the horns would go away. They had come without warning, why shouldn't they go the same way?
He pushed a hand back through his limp and thinning hair—thinning at twenty-six!—then squeezed his head between his palms. He hated the frantic scurry of his thoughts, how desperately one idea chased after another. His fingertips brushed the horns, and he cried out in fright. It was on his lips to say, God, please God, make them go away...but then he caught himself and said nothing.
A crawly sensation worked its way up his forearms. If he was a devil now, could he still speak of God? Would lightning strike him, shatter him in a white flash? Would he burn?
Hill's dialogue and use of flashbacks paints a believable tableau that illustrates the ongoing tension between good and evil -- and points out that sometimes it's difficult to tell which is which -- and I was thoroughly enraged with the villain. His evil acts made Ig look like an angel, not a devil. Although a bit ambiguous, the ending was was completely satisfying. Hill is one imaginative dude! I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!
Check out Joe's website and interview for Horns here.