Wednesday, April 28, 2010
QNY Blog Book Review: "Horns" by Joe Hill
I found Joe Hill some time ago when his debut novel, "Heart-Shaped Box" came out which I loved. At the time, he was being trumpeted as the son of Stephen King which was supposed to get people into his book, at least for a look-see. From what I could tell, it totally worked. "Heart-Shaped Box" had all the elements of a great horror-y speculative fiction story: likable characters, vile villains, and just a really enjoyable plot. Most importantly, he, much like his famous father, is a story-teller first and then a writer. I've always appreciated this quality and Joe Hill has it in spades. His novel led me to his short fiction collection "20th Century Ghosts" which satiated my appetite for a bit. And then "Horns" was announced and I had my pre-order copy bought before I read anything about.
"Horns" is a fantastic tale that more than follows the strengths of "Heart-Shaped Box". You find out in the first chapter just about everything you need to know to carry you through the rest of the story and like a great story, it is very much like unwrapping a multi-layered gift; every layer underneath is brilliant in its own regard and getting you one step closure what is in side.
The story centers around Iggy Perrish who we find out in the first chapter is mourning the death of his girl friend which everyone thinks he murdered. On the even of the anniversary of her death, he gets drunk and wakes up with a pair of horns growing out of his head and realizes that when people see him, they become entranced to tell Iggy their very worst thoughts and desires. Is Iggy the Devil and why would we care anyway? But we do care and that is his story about the devil in all of us and that gray area that exists between doing what we think is right versus what we really, secretly, deep-down want which isn't necessarily evil.
What I first loved about the story was the concept was pretty simple, so simple in fact that I felt like I needed to smack my head because I hadn't thought of it...or more accurately, might have thought something similar and dismissed it so easily because it just seemed unworkable and cliche. But in the hands of a story teller brave enough to see what leads down the rabbit hole, Joe Hill comes up with a great story, satisfyingly fleshing out the details of his conceit, threading the fishing line to lure you into the rest of it.
All the main characters are likable in their own way and written strongly. The plot is able to weave Iggy's plight tightly around the rest of the characters and comes to a very satisfying conclusion by the end of the book. There are lots of theological layers about the nature of good and evil, God and the Devil, but it is accessible and didn't give me a headache trying to work my way through the world-view being presented.
Overall, I highly recommend the book for anyone who loves to read a great story with an interesting concept, plenty of plot-twists and satisfying reveals.