Sunday, March 14, 2010

Horns, by Joe Hill

(hb; 2010)

From the inside flap:

"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 renown musician and younger brother of a rising late-night 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 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..."

Review:

Caveat: (possible) spoilers in this review.

Horns is an addictive, distinctive, playful reinvention and re-characterization of the "deal with the devil" plot-structure/-sub-genre, popping with pop-references (which keep with the novel's hell/devil theme).

Hill's skillful, multi-layered, playful writing veneers this sometimes-scary, sometimes-sad work. The sorrow and/or rage of the characters, particularly that of the core characters (Ignatius "Ig" Perrish, Merrin Williams, Lee Tourneau) is especially affecting and rings true -- combined with its natural, leavening humor, dark divinity, and mortal moods and motives, it pinnacles Horns above most of this season's published horror offerings.

Not only that, but as a bonus, repeat readers of Hill's may note a passing mention of Judas Coyne, the protagonist from Hill's first novel, Heart-Shaped Box. (I love it when skillful writers link/consolidate the reaches of their printed universes, pulling readers, like myself, into them even more.)


Fun, top-notch read, this. Own it.

According to imdb.com, a film version is forthcoming, sometime in the near future. I'll update information pertaining to it when more information is made available to me.

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