Sunday, 19 October 2014

Review: 'Horns' by Joe Hill

 Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more - he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone - raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances - with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.

Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power - with just a touch he can see peoples' darkest desires - to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man 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.

As its October, I fancied dipping into a horror novel. Aside from a few teenage forays into King and Herbert, I’m something of a stranger to the genre, but Joe Hill’s work has appealed to me for a while now. I own both Horns and Heart-Shaped Box, but decided to go with Horns as it’s the subject of the group read on a forum I participate in.

The main impression I had of the majority of the book was “meh”, which is as close as I can get to a verbal shrug of indifference.

It’s unfortunate: Horns actually starts off very promisingly. Hill throws us right in at the deep end by having the protagonist, Ig, discover his new predicament – that a nice sharp pair of horns have begun growing out of his forehead – on the very first page. He then proceeds with the story logically and rapidly, with Ig taking a visit to the walk-in centre and accidentally discovering the side-effects of his new pointy accessories: that people he talks to now confess their darkest desires to him without prompting. Worse still, when he makes physical contact with a person, he can see every dark secret and every nasty thing they’ve ever done. However, this quickly becomes repetitive, with every single person he meets wanting to either hurt or have sex with someone they know.

After learning that Ig’s girlfriend was murdered a year ago, we’re then treated to long sequences of flashbacks from the early days of their relationship. I have to admit that much of this had me sighing and flicking forward to see when each chapter would end. However, much later on in the book, the flashbacks do become quite poignant, as they reveal just how tragic and probably avoidable many of the events really are. I wasn’t overly-enamoured with Ig as a protagonist, but began to like him more towards the end of the book, when the pace picked up and he began to embrace his new knowledge.

I’m a bit disappointed that Horns wasn’t actually scary in any way –after all, I only really picked it up because I fancied a good scare – but it makes up for a lot of that in dark imagery and even blacker humour. It’s not spectacular – in fact, I think it’s one of the weaker books I’ve read this year – but it’s a fairly short, easy-to-read novel with a solid story and a great ending.


Click here to view Horns on Amazon UK.


  1. NOS4R2 was my first book by Joe Hill and I told myself afterward it definitely won't be my last. His older novels (this one and Heart Shaped Box) seem to have gotten medium to okay reviews though, so hmm maybe I'll hold off to see what else he'll write in the future?

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum