Horns by Joe Hill

I “discovered” Joe Hill last November, listening to the excellent Audible production of Locke & Key, and in the intervening year have devoured most of his back catalogue. I enjoyed his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, was less keen on NOS4R2, and fell crazy, painfully in love with his most recent novel, The Fireman. I wasn’t expecting Horns to conjure up quite the same level of slavish devotion, but I was anticipating a solidly enjoyable read that I’d tear through in a couple of days. And that was exactly what Horns delivered.

I’ve been wanting to see the film version starring Daniel Radcliffe for a while, but it just wouldn’t have felt right without reading the book first. And I’m glad I have, because it’s totally ramped up my need to see how he pulls this off. Horns is the tale of poor Ig Perrish, whose childhood sweetheart was brutally raped and murdered a year before we meet him. After an all-night bender getting trashed and cursing God, Ig wakens to discover he’s grown horns in the night. As you do. The horns come equipped with mysterious powers, which compel people to tell Ig their darkest desires, and allow him to see their most grievous misdoings at a touch. It unrolls fairly amusingly, until Ig pays a visit to the family home and unearths some truths never meant to be spoken.

I found present-day Ig a sympathetic and engaging character, but sometimes struggled to connect with his teenage self. He’s presented as being so all-round wonderful, such a good all-American boy, that’s it’s hard to tie in with the twenty-something young man who discovers that his grandmother secretly hates him and sends her wheeling down a hill in revenge.

The writing and pacing were both solid, and I found it a compelling and well-plotted read. The religious element was occasionally off-putting, but never so overdone as to be distracting. In Ig’s former best friend Lee Tourneau, Hill has created an excellent villain. Terrible as he is, I would have liked to have spent more time in his head. Perhaps my favourite element focused on Ig’s relationship with his brother Terry. The sibling bond was touching, well developed and relatable.

I’m sad that I’m rapidly running out of Hill’s stories to read, but am delighted to have added a new author to my must-read list this year.

[Read from 3-5 December 2016]

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