Horns is a well wrought tale with intellectual merit. Not only are we entertained, we are challenged to think as well.”

 

CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Hello bibliophiles, Quintin Fortune here, and I’m about to throw a book at somebody. The book in question is ‘Horns’. The target? Author Joe Hill. Now, I obtained the book once I heard there was a movie being made about it, mostly so I can do what every other book fan does when a movie adaptation is released: complain bitterly about how they’ve completely lost sight of the book.

Look, just because you’re a little late to the party, doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy the bean dip. But if this party is any indication, I think I should have just stayed at home. I would have been less emotionally scarred.

Our story is a battle of good verse evil, where the main character, Ignatius, tries to confront the man that killed his sweetheart Merrin and deals with emerging devil horns, constant flashbacks, and zero character development.

This is a book in five parts, so to make it a little less painful, we’ll just do a few sweeps and get this over with as soon as possible.

Part 1 greets us with Ignatius waking up to find an abnormal growth on his forehead. It’s the one year anniversary of Merrin’s death and everyone in the small town of Gideon hates him. He discovers that when people look at him, they confess their darkest desires, but completely forget they said anything once they look away. He also finds out he can influence people to act on these impulses. Through this gift, he comes to find out that his BF Lee actually committed the crime.

Part 2 is a flashback (the first of many) in which we all learn that most of the main character in Part 1 actually knew each other before because small town cliché. Yay. This part is more for foreshadowing that anything else, but also gives us some background on Ignatius, Lee, and Merrin.

Part 3 brings us back to the present, with Ignatius ready to confront and/or kill Lee for what he did, but not before having a few more flashbacks about other locations. Once he’s set on his course, he runs into Lee’s personal henchman, Eric. There’s a confrontation between them, then between Him and Lee, where Ignatius finds out (shock) his horns have no power over Lee. Our protagonist returns to the spot from Part 2, discovers more cliché powers, and has more flashbacks as Lee tries to kill him with fire.

Part 4 is another flashback (WHEE!) showing off more of how Lee is a psychopath by slowly murdering his mother by overheating her. And during this part, we have ANOTHER flashback to a YOUNGER Lee that shows even MORE of how he’s a psychopath! This isn’t storytelling, this is the writer trying to put in padding to make a fifty chapter book. Cutting back to the present. Or the past present. Or present past. Anyway, we find out more about that fateful night.

I’m going to take a moment here, this may or may not be deleted out of the final review, to address the elephant in the room. Now, those that have read the book know exactly what I’m talking about, but for the rest of you, I’ll just lay it out there: There is an entire chapter dedicated to Lee raping Merrin. I have a problem with rape to begin with. The very word makes my blood boil with a rage that I don’t think I have enough room or words to express. When you set up that the main antagonist has committed such an act, I automatically want that character dead. But when you as a writer have an entire chapter dedicated to the act of rape, that doesn’t make me hate the character, that makes me hate YOU.

I know a lot of people will say that depicting rape in such a way draws attention to how bad it is, but I reply with who the hell thinks rape is a good idea? If you know anyone who thinks of rape in ANY sort of positive light, get the hell away from them. You do not need them in your life.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s dive into Part 5, the final battle. But not before Ignatius gets some clarity about what Merrin was really doing, which means MORE FLASHBACKS! Finally, back in the present, Ignatius and Lee (and Lee’s lackey Eric) fight it out, and I have no idea which way the author was going with this battle. It’s either a really good 80’s action fight, a really bad horror movie fight, or ten episodes of Dragonball Z. After the battle is concluded, everything catches on fire and Ignatius disappears into the flames.

Finally, we come to the epilogue. We can wrap everything up in a nice little bow and ANOTHER FLASHBACK?! SERIOUSLY?! I’m starting to get a headache. The two people left from Ignatius’ life recollect on everything that’s happened since the fire and…that’s it. They decide to date and that’s the end of the book.

So that’s ‘Horns’. A interesting premise lost behind annoying flashbacks, a narrative that is all over the place, and a protagonist and antagonist that are as two-dimensional as a cardboard cutout.. After reading this book, I refuse to watch the movie, nor would I recommend this book to anyone.

I’m Quintin Fortune, and if anyone asks, the devil made me do it.

 

Reviewed by:

Quintin Fortune

Added 22nd October 2015

More Reviews By
Quintin Fortune

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

CRY FOR THE DEVIL, PRAY FOR HUMANITY

“Devil inside, devil inside,
Every single one of us, a devil inside…”
– INXS

Much is made of honesty. People are always telling us to be “honest” or that “they want the truth.” However, another common saying is that “the truth hurts.” Horns is a book that takes these notions and exploits them beautifully for the sake of a gripping and suspenseful tale.

It begins with Ignatius “Ig” Parrish waking up in his home after a night of heavy drinking that followed the one year anniversary of his girlfriend, Merrin Williams’s brutal killing.

This morning he’s dealing with something worse than a hangover or grief. There are two small devilish horns protruding from his skull. Amazingly, this is not the strangest thing. What’s strange is that everyone Ig talks to seems to be completely uninterested in the horns, and vastly more interested in confessing their darkest thoughts, secrets and desires to him. As maddening, blackly comedic and oddly cathartic as this is at first, Ig soon realizes that this mysterious new ability presents him a unique opportunity. To not only help him find out how much his family and fellow citizens blame him for Merrin’s rape and murder, but also to discover the identity of the one who really killed her.

Horns is the first of Joe Hill’s novels I have read (excluding the Locke & Key graphic novel series), and I must say it showcases his particular brand of writing and its effectiveness quite well. He writes in a way that I feel is easily accessible and relatable for us 21st Century readers. The characters and situations (as shocking and disturbing as some of them appear) are very well-illustrated. Hill has inherited his father, Stephen King’s talent for lovely description, sharp detail and raising tension, albeit in his own unique way. I can’t wait to read more of his work.

This book contains pretty much everything that I want out of a good horror story. It makes a bizarre and implausible scenario appear real and scary, treating it with respect. It features a hard-to-like but nevertheless dynamic hero, and a sickeningly chilling and loathsome villain. It instilled me with great fear, nearing dread, as I was reading it. This dread was fairly consistent throughout; a sense that we are peeling away the layers to find something truly haunting. Most importantly, it wasn’t beholden to one specific genre. It contains just as much drama, comedy, suspense and romance as it does horror, making a nice combination of several genres. This is a solid black comedy that turns into an intense horror-thriller, while always wearing the visage of a tragic love story. At times, it even feels like the origin story of a superhero.

Another thing that it does well, which some horror stories cannot pull off, is the topical subject matter it delves into. To explain, this is a story that wants to examine heavenly virtues as much as it does deadly sins. It it ironically displaying the darker aspects of humanity in the form of a young man who is becoming something demonic.

While Ignatius becomes more Satan-like in nature and appearance, we are still with him, feeling for him and caring about him. Way more than we do the many “average, ordinary, good citizens” he meets who, at the sight of his horns, are eagerly revealing to him all the ways in which they are not average, ordinary or good. It’s a testament to his writing that Hill can make these moments of exceptionally brutal honesty as awkward and hilarious as they are bewildering and horrifying. We as readers are treated to a story in which religion and spirituality are deliberately turned on their heads, touching upon the brighter aspects of something generally regarded as pure evil and the ugliest aspects of that which is revered as normal or civilized. Though the supernatural element to Horns is pretty substantial, this is about mankind’s dark side and just how dark it can be under the surface.

It’s not without its problems. Some of the sequences of events and character mindsets are a bit hard to swallow, but the author is mostly successful at justifying it to us so that it isn’t entirely unbelievable. The exact nature of the magic or curse or whatever exactly is happening to Ignatius is vague. While the movie adaptation with Daniel Radcliffe (which I watched shortly after finishing the book) takes the whole “man becomes devil” concept to its radical extreme, the book is a bit more reserved, treating it as more of a spiritual awakening to another realm of being than a physical cycle of evolution. Anyway, yes, few flaws to be found here.

This was a fast, exciting read. It wraps you into the story quickly, makes you want to get to the bottom of the titular horns. More voracious readers than I will likely consume it in the course of a day. If they like it as much as I did, they will definitely keep it in mind for a future re-read.

 

Reviewed by:

Logan Cox

Added 12th September 2015

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