Books of 2013 #7: Horns, by Joe Hill

I’m so behind on this; I actually finished Horns before the cruise.

I’d read one of Joe Hill‘s books before — Heart Shaped Box, his debut novel — but somehow missed out on Horns when it was released, and then it went into the perennially sifted “I’m gonna read that…” pile. I shouldn’t have delayed.

Horns is great fun from the start. Instead of slowly building to a monstrous development after hundreds of pages of hinting, Hill drops us right into the mess from page one. Ig Perrish wakes up with devil’s horns. They have odd effects on people. Given the immediate past circumstances of his life — everyone thinks he murdered his girlfriend Merrin a year before — there’s plenty of opportunity for these effects to create amusing developments.

It’s only after you’re hooked on the story that Hill paints the rest of the picture — Ig’s childhood, his family, his friends, his relationship with the dear, departed girlfriend, etc. — and if I have a complaint here it’s that these sections kind of drag a bit, and I felt at times like I really wanted to get back to the first story thread, which I was sure would be full of righteous retribution. And then, in those moments, you realize that you are reading a book that has you rooting for the devil.

Nice work.

Here’s a little bonus, btw: Horns is already being made into a film, starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ig and Juno Temple as Merrin. Principal photgraphy started last September.

2 thoughts on “Books of 2013 #7: Horns, by Joe Hill

  1. Well, having read both of Joe Hill’s first two novels, as well as his upcoming third, I must first point out a fact you neglected to mention. You may not know it or you may have omitted it to keep potential readers from comparing. Joe Hill is only part of this author’s name; his full name is Joe Hill KING. As in Stephen King. Yep, it’s his boy, and Joe is a chip off the old block.

    I found both of his first two novels highly interesting but somewhat flawed–the flaws I saw were mostly nit-picky crap that shouldn’t prevent you from reading these two mighty fine modern horror novels, so you shouldn’t worry about them. Both Heart Shaped Box and Horns were quite good novels–no, they weren’t super-literary, but like his old man, Joe can write rings around most contemporary horror novelists (Dean Koontz, I am looking in your direction). And Hill knows how to put together a good story. Oh, yeah, and his story collection 20th Century Ghosts was terrific.

    I got an advance copy of Mr. Hill’s new one, NOS4A2 (anyone who’s ever been a horror geek will get the reference) last September. I think it’s officially out at the end of April. (Hey, there have to be some perks to being a bookseller.) One issue I had with the first two novels was it seemed as if the author was consciously trying not to riff off his dad and yet write horror at the same time. Fair enough. NOS4A2 seems to see Mr. Hill saying, “Okay, I WILL write like my dad.” And this novel is better than all but one of Stephen King’s last few novels. It’s almost a pastiche of classic King, and Mr. Hill pulls it off beautifully. It’s a fat 700+ page novel and I burned through it in three days. I’m really looking forward to see where Joe Hill goes after this. He’s still finding his voice and trying out new stuff, and more power to him, but NOS4A2 knocks it out of the park.

  2. Actually, I deliberately left that out. I had a whole paragraph where noted “hearing his daddy’s footsteps” in the way Hill builds out the Lee character, but ended up deleting it. Incidentally, his middle name is Hillstrom, not Hill, though it’s taken from slain labor leader Joe Hill.

    I’m eagerly anticipating NOS4A2 (yes, I get it), which Hill is flogging just a tiny bit on his (quite entertaining) Twitter feed.

    I agree that it seems Hill is off the races in a big way. He’s a real talent, and a real credit to his house.