Horns by Joe Hill
4 Stars (out of 4)
Whoa. That was my reaction to "Horns", a novel by Joe Hill. If you're unfamiliar with the author you may have heard of his parents, Tabitha and Stephen King. Maybe it's in the blood, but Hill's certainly got the talent. He's not just finding success based on his famous parents.
"Horns" is the story of Ignatius "Ig" Perrish, a young man who wakes up in his car with a hangover and no memory of the previous night's events. Also, he has horns. It's not a spoiler. Hill doesn't waste time introducing the element. The horns are there from the beginning.
Don't let the supernatural elements fool you, this story is a study of human nature. What do the horns do? Well, they give people the urge to tell Ig their deepest darkest desires. Often they even ask Ig permission to act on those desires. Also, if he makes skin contact with another person he absorbs their memories, often finding out things he didn't want to know. His friends, family, even his preacher has horrible secrets.
The one secret that Ig needs to know is a little harder to discover. He fell in love at a young age and stayed with his childhood sweetheart until after highschool. But when the relationship should have blossomed things went terribly wrong. His girlfriend ended up raped and murdered, Ig was the prime suspect. He was never convicted, but the suspicion never died.
"Horns" sets a furious pace. Some novelists would have taken a thousand pages to do what Hill accomplishes in about 450. At the halfway mark I was wondering how there could really be another half-book waiting to be read. So much had been revealed, so much had happened. It never stopped though. The characters evolve, or at the reader's perception of those characters evolve drastically.
The book is such an easy read. There's plenty of impressive vocabulary that's littered with both classic and modern culture references. Amongst all this wonderful prose is the plentiful usage of cursing. It all works together to keep things sharp and fun. Here's a spoiler free excerpt that involves an exploding turkey:
“Shit,” Terry said. “Maybe it got wet.”
He took a step back toward the stump.
Eric grabbed his arm.“Hang on. Sometimes it—”
But Ig didn’t hear the rest of the sentence. No one did. Lydia Perrish’s twenty-eight-pound Butterball turkey exploded with a shattering crack, a sound so loud, so sudden and hard, that the girls out on the rock screamed. So did many of the boys. Ig would’ve screamed himself, but the blast seemed to force all the air out of his weak lungs, and he could only wheeze.
The turkey was torn apart in a rising gout of flame. The stump half exploded as well. Smoking chunks of wood whirled through the air. The skies opened and rained meat. Bones, still garnished with quivering lumps of raw pink flesh, drizzled down, rattling through the leaves and bouncing off the ground. Turkey parts fell pitter-plitter-plop into the river. In stories told later, many boys would claim that the girls on Coffin Rock were decorated with chunks of raw turkey, soaked in poultry blood like the chick in fuckin’ Carrie, but this was embellishment. The farthest-flung fragments of bird fell a good twenty feet short of the rock.
film adaptation of "Horns" is slated to be released in October 2013. The lead character will be portrayed by Danielle "Harry Potter" Radcliffe who I have nothing against, but doesn't seem very demonic. His girlfriend will be played by Juno Temple who I am mesmerized by. Seriously, I've seen a lot of her work, even the stuff that most folks haven't heard of. She's never disappointing. If you want to see some of her best work check out the sadistic "Killer Joe".
Speaking of sadistic, the film is being directed by Alexandre Aja. His notable works include "High Tension", "Piranha", and "The Hills Have Eyes". He's a member of the "Splat Pack", a group of directors including Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, Darren Lynn Bousman and Robert Rodriguez. So you can bet good money that this adaptation won't be a watered-down version of the novel.
I'm about 70 pages into Hill's previous novel, "Heart-Shaped Box" and it's looking just as good. After that I'll be reading his latest work "NOS4A2". So count me as a Joe Hill fan.