Horns by Joe Hill

Title: Horns
Author: Joe Hill
Genre: Horror/Suspense
Publisher: William Morrow, 2010
Pages: 370

I read Joe Hill’s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, and liked it enough to enter the giveaway for Horns on Goodreads.com.  Five days before the book’s release I received an advance reader copy in the mail.  There was no communication in the package, but I’m assuming it’s from the Goodreads giveaway.

Horns starts out with a solid energy that gave me the feeling that I was getting into a book “that runs like hell on wheels” as the back of the book proclaims.  Ignatius (“Ig”) William Perrish wakes up one morning with a bad hangover and horns growing out of his skull.  He soon discovers that the horns have powers that are a bit of a liability.  There’s an angry rock-like pulse to the beginning of the book that creates a tension that you’re hoping will lead to a sweet explosion.

However, the book downshifts into lower gear throughout the mid-section which is where we find out the details of how Ig’s girlfriend of ten years (they started dating at 15) was murdered.  By the middle of the book you know who all the major players are, who the bad guy (probably) is, and you have an inkling about how things may end up.  Its still good reading, but it gets a little . . . slow.  I felt like the throbbing horror novel that I’d started with turned into a more poised, self-contained literary novel.  Shortly after page 300 information comes out that helped me appreciate the slow set up a bit more, but I am still left with the sense that the tension created in the beginning of the book could have been maintained more consistently throughout.

But Joe Hill is a really good writer and funny as, well, hell, so I happily kept reading.  I also had the sense that Hill was working something out.  Unlike other novels that lag in the middle, this one never made me want to stop reading or wonder ‘what’s the point?’ or think the writer lacked talent.  Hill shows the development of the various relationships between characters by slowly layering bits of relationship history, and that’s what contributes to his strong characterizations.  The “good guys” were more fully developed and enjoyable then the “bad guys, ” but overall the universe of this book is completely believable.

There’s no doubt that Hill is a wonderful storyteller and strong writer whose talent is on the rise.  I greatly appreciate his sense of humor and the pithy bits of religious commentary that he sprinkles throughout Horns. Horror, suspense, and some literary aficionados should keep Joe Hill on their radar, if he isn’t already there.

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