Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review: Horns

After a remorse-filled night of drunkenness, Ignatius Perrish awakes the next day with a brutal hangover, and two horns growing out of his head.  

Although Ig initially thinks the horns are just a hallucination - part of the depression and grief he's been dealing with for the past year - he soon discovers that the horns grant him strange abilities:  When anyone finds themselves in the presence of Ig, the horns cause them to admit their darkest, most evil desires. 

Ig has spent the past year or so in a state of deep emotional grief after his long-time girl friend, Merrin Williams, was brutally raped and murdered.  Ig was the primary suspect in that murder, but was never convicted of the crime, nor proven innocent, because the evidence collected at the crime scene was destroyed in a fire that ruined the police lab.  To this day, Ig remains a "person of interest" in the case, and in the public opinion of his small New Hampshire town, Ig will always be guilty, and only able to get away with murder thanks to his wealthy family and their connections.

Since all of the people who once loved Ig; his family, his friends, the community, even his church,  seem to have turned their back on him, and his only company are his inner devils, it seems fitting that Ig is "gifted" with the horns and their dark powers...powers he plans on using to find some answers about the death of his beloved Merrin, and maybe even get some revenge.

Leading up to my reading of Horns I felt like I'd been in a bit of a reading slump.  Even though I've been enjoying a lot of my recent reads, I had started to feel like I was getting a bit of burn out on the fantasy genre.  I think I just needed something that felt vastly different than the standard good vs. evil of The Keep, and the dark, grittiness of Best Served Cold.  I'm happy to say that Horns provided me with a read that felt fresh and revived my energy for the fantasy genre just in time for the release of A Dance With DragonsHorns delivered in three distinct ways, which combined to make this story pretty awesome.

First off, Horns has a great murder-mystery element to it.  From very early on, the rape/murder of Ig's girlfriend, Merrin Williams plays a big role, and the details of that night, are slowly teased out.  The pieces of the puzzle can be put together though flashbacks seen from various character's points of view.  For me, this was probably the most interesting aspect of the story, and Hill does a great job of crafting a great murder mystery. 

Now, I'm not generally impressed or overly entertained by love stories, but there is a great romance element to Horns as well.  Hill handled this element of the story in a way that felt genuine, and believable.  I thought Ig and Merrin's love story hit the right notes, without being overwhelming.  In order for the present version of Ig to be believable and compelling, there needed to be a strong love story included in order to make Merrin's murder important and so we know what makes Ig "tick".  Simply said, this aspect of the book was wonderfully done, and as a result, made the story stronger.

Lastly, there's the supernatural/horror element of the story.  Horns excels greatly in this department.  The horns on Ig's head make for some great character interactions, and create some extremely creepy situations.  When I read a horror novel, I want it to suck me in, keep me up reading past my bedtime, and give me bad dreams the whole night through.  Not only did Horns hit all those notes, but it added in a healthy dash of paranoia as well.  What I truly appreciated is that Hill never over-uses the supernatural or horror elements in the book, but instead deals them out in timely chunks that deliver a greater impact when they do occur.

When blended together, the murder mystery, romance and supernatural/horror elements create a unique reading experience.  For me, Horns felt different from my usual reading, and refreshed my love for fantasy. Lately, I find myself drawn to fantasy novels that blend in a healthy dose of horror, along with some other elements to create a tasty genre-blending sauce.  The non-linear approach to telling Ig's story was also a nice touch that added to my enjoyment. 

This is only my second Joe Hill experience, but I think I'm officially a fan.  Horns is one of my favorite reads of the year so far, and after reading this I only want to read more of what Hill has to offer.  Horns is a dark and sad novel with some great elements at play that make it stand out from the rest of the Horror crowd.  This might sound crazy, but there's a chance this Hill fellah is a better writer than his dad.  Yeah, I said it. Read this and see for yourself.

Grade: A-


Jeff Rivera said...

Thanks for the review! I have been thinking about getting this book. Thanks for adding great insights and I'm now planning on getting a copy soon

Ryan said...

Jeff- Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoy Horns!