Horns by Joe Hill

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At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

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

But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster 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. . . .

“You think you know someone. But mostly you just know what you want to know.”

Of course I know by now that Joe Hill is none other than the son of the nearly worshipped Stephen King. I keep seeing praise in my feed and groups about his work, but Horns is my first taste of what he's offering. I'd seen - and loved - the movie on Netflix a few months before reading this.

Since the book and movie are so similar, there weren't surprises waiting for me. That soured it a little but I still loved the story. It's inventive and surreal, sort of like a parable vibe horror tale that uses symbolism but refrains from being preachy. It's hard to say what it all means, but that's part of its appeal.

Joe Hill gets brownie points for being original and daring. There's dark humor that pops up to be played with, but overall it's a richly dark tale. I'm judging it to be a horror-drama piece, but its not frightening in any suspenseful way. The mystery is strong since the main focus for the character continues to be finding out who killed his girlfriend, with the side story of his horns being another mystery in the background.

The book wins when it comes to the villain because I was able to be inside his head, understand his views more and see the pure evil that existed. There was the strange situation with his mother and demented glimpses into his childhood. In the movie he wasn't done that well, but I have to say I actually prefer the main character in the film. Hill writes a little dryly when it comes to emotion, so to me Iggy was too distant with the way his feelings were written. I grew into that writing style later as the book progressed, but it made it harder to grab me in the first half.

Seriously trippy scenes were awesome - especially with the snakes, his bizarre relationship with the other characters, and that creepy horn making people tell the truth and act on their true impulses.

I've seen some reviewers write that this book didn't know what genre it wanted to be or what direction to go in, and they're right. It reads at times like a horror piece, but then it turns completely around tries to be a mystery, to then turn around again and be a drama piece for awhile. That doesn't bother me since I actually like those quirky books that combine so many genres it almost comes across mentally confused.

It's not a perfect book - the other characters other than Iggy were stronger with emotional depth- but the story was intriguing. I'll definitely give Hill another go in the future.

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