Sunday, 31 August 2014

Horns by Joe Hill | Book Review

This review is spoiler-free.

Horns was the second novel that Joe "the son of Stephen King" Hill wrote, and is the first of his books to get a big-screen adaptation. After a long wait since its festival premiere last Summer, Horns will finally be getting a cinema release in October. The film interested me with the casting of Daniel Radcliffe - an actor who has been picking his roles carefully since the end of his Harry Potter franchise - and so I picked up the book to get a glimpse of what was heading towards our screens. What I read surprised me. Horns is not a book for the faint hearted, with sexual content throughout, a few murders sprinkled in, and even some satanic preaching to an audience of snakes. Luckily, I have an open mind to weird stories such as this one and so I actually really enjoyed this journey.

Following Ig - the less successful younger brother to late-night TV star Terry Perrish - in the wake of his girlfriend Merrin's brutal murder, Horns is a dark journey into the mind of someone suffering with not just grief, but feelings of loneliness and injustice. Indeed to add more salt in the wound it is Ig who was accused of Merrin's murder, and even a year after he was found not guilty he is shunned in the small town he's lived in all his life. This is where the book begins, with the opening pages seeing Ig waking up to horns growing out of his head - horns that provoke people into telling their deepest, darkest secrets and desires.

The book sees Ig struggling to cope with this latest unfortunate development, as he pieces together last night's events and finds out at last who Merrin's true killer was. However while this is the main storyline of the book, Hill also spends time fleshing out events of years before. This involves flashing back to the first time Ig met Merrin, as well as other supporting characters Lee Tourneau, and Glenna Nicholson. At first this seems like an odd decision when the events of the main story are so thrilling - however, the further into the book you get, the more you discover how crucial these flashbacks are. Some make character motivations clearer, others clarify why some characters are the way they are, inducing a "so THAT'S why that happened" effect.
Another great technique Hill uses is repeating scenes more than once, but from the perspective of other characters. This is an inventive way of revealing some of the book's secrets and mysteries, which proves far more effective than if all the answers were laid out in just one version of a scene.

In Horns, Hill demonstrates that he is a master at developing characters, a skill that's carried through to his latest novel NOS4R2 and his comic book series Locke and Key. Hill really makes you feel for the characters in this story, sympathising for most, and loathing the rest. It's because of this great character development that it's somewhat disappointing the book ends a little ambiguously. This is a spoiler-free review so I won't go into any further details, but the ending did leave some questions unanswered. That's not to say it was an awful ending however, just flawed, and it shouldn't put you off giving this book a read.


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