Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Title: Horns
Author: Joe Hill
Pages: 437 (paperback)
Published: July 2011
Published by: Gollancz

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 renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV 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 power to go with his 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. . . . It’s time the devil had his due. . . .

Ignatious 'Ig' Perrish had found the love of his life in Merrin Williams. Then she was killed. Everyone seems to think that he did it, but he was passed out drunk in his car at the time.

A year later, he wakes up with horns which make people reveal their darkest thoughts and desires, and means that Ig knows their deepest secrets with a simple touch. He  can push them into doing all the things they've been scared to because they're afraid of what people will think. And being the prime suspect in the murder of his girlfriend...Ig really doesn't want to know what people really think of him.

I almost stopped reading this book about 50 pages in, because the depravity of the things which were revealed to Ig seriously put me off. I mean, yeah, some people probably do think about some of the things these people do. But to believe that everyone he comes into contact with has those kind of thoughts? And that kind of sums up a lot of my issues with this story. Yeah, Ig's horns are working a little to draw it out of people, but it doesn't seem like there can be that many people with such horrible thoughts around just one person. I guess I just have a little too much faith in humanity to really believe it.

Ig does some horrible things with his new-found abilities, but it was the times that he didn't, where he did the right thing and tried to help people that kept me reading this book. Though, of course, you never really know which way he'll go, so you're always kind of wondering.

This is a crime story with a difference. You find out pretty early on who did actually kill Merrin, and then it's all a matter of what Ig does with this information. I would have preferred it if the mystery could have been kept a little longer, and maybe delivered in a more suspenseful way than it was because after that it was more about morality and less about who/why. I would have enjoyed the story more, I think, if Ig had had to do some more hunting and digging to find out the truth - it all came a little too easily for my liking.

The writing is good, and Hill has certainly inherited his father's (Stephen King) ability of creating suspense with his writing. You want to know what's going to happen, or how things came about. The story isn't told sequentially - there are jumps back and forth in time relatively frequently - and so you're always left with plenty to wonder about. But the ending isn't unsatisfactory and everything is tied up quite nicely. There are hints of what would follow, but you're left to make up your own mind.

Overall, an interesting book, maybe not entirely suited to my sensibilities.

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