Saturday 22 November 2014
#CBR6 Book 123: "Horns" by Joe Hill
Rating: 3.5 stars
Pretty much exactly a year after his girlfriend Merrin Williams was found raped and murdered, Ignatius "Ig" Perrish wakes up after getting blackout drunk and discovers horns spouting from his forehead. He's not entirely sure they're not a hallucination at first, but when he discovers how people behave around him due to the horns, he realises that they are sadly all too real. Turns out the horns make everyone around him spill their deepest, darkest secrets. They confess to their most shameful wishes and desires and they bluntly tell Ig to his face what they actually think of him. Pretty much everyone in town is convinced that he murdered Merrin, and that it was only through the wealth and position of his parents that he got off without a trial. Ig faces harsh truths from the local priest, his new girlfriend, his grandmother and his parents.
The terrible compulsion from the horns allows Ig to not only stop deluding himself of what his life has become, but he eventually discovers who raped and murdered Merrin. He is determined to get revenge any way he can, and wants to use his demonic new powers to get it. But what if the murderer is the only one seemingly immune to Ig's new "gift"?
As well as the story of Ig, his horns and his quest for revenge, the book shows much of Merrin and Ig's relationship together, from before their first meeting until the bitter argument they had on the fateful night that Merrin was abused and killed. The many players in this revenge drama are introduced, all part of Ig's life from an early age. We see him meet Merrin and fall in love with her. We see him with his brother and his friends. The book cuts between the present and the past throughout, alternating from the horror of Ig's current situation with the privileged upbringing and past he had.
I normally don't read a whole lot of horror. I suspect that this year I have read more of the genre than in several of the past years combined. Because I really liked what I've read of Joe Hill's Locke and Key so far, and having discovered that this book was being adapted into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe (say what you want, but the boy has been in a LOT of different things since he finished the last Harry Potter movie. He seems determined not to risk being typecast), I was intrigued, and when in need of some entertainment while on vacation in New York, I picked this up. Normally I hate movie tie-in covers, but the original cover was boring and ugly, and the non-mass market paperback was more than twice as expensive. There are limits to how much money I'm willing to spend on my light holiday reads.
Looking on Goodreads, I see that several other Cannonballers really loved this book. It's been very highly rated twice so far this year on the group blog. Unfortunately, it wasn't really my sort of thing. I think the way the book alternated between the mundane, almost boring at times and the gruesome was distracting and I kept wanting to reach into the book and slap some sense into Ig, because to me, it was obvious who the real killer was even before this is revealed. I also thought the book got more and more surreal towards the end, and am not thrilled with how the dramatic climax played out. I did like the slow reveal of some stuff (being extremely vague here so as not to spoil for anyone), and Merrin's last letter to Ig was very touching.
The film seems to have gotten more negative than positive reviews, with Vivian on Pajiba really hating it. As I thought the trailer made it look as if it really could go either way, I doubt I will be watching it. I also suspect that I will be donating the paperback to my school library.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.