Give the author his Due

Horns Review Part 1 : Nearly Spoiler-Free

When it comes to the art of crafting fine stories, let’s give Joe Hill his due.

With the debut of his second full-length novel, Mr. Hill has established himself as a master of dark fantasy & horror, defying the sophomore slump with a devilish grin. And that’s not blowing smoke out your nose.

The narrative settles around Ignatius (Ig) Martin Perrish, an upright man coping with the rape & murder of his lifetime love, Merrin Williams. The death of his loved one would be hard enough, but the pain is made unspeakable when everyone – his own family included – believes he is the culprit. After a fit of blasphemous, drunken rage, Ig awakens to find himself the owner of a peculiar new headpiece: a pair of horns that “gift” him the power to see into the darkest memories of anyone he touches; and when others see the horns, they are overcome with a desperate need to confess their darkest desires.

Horns is not the emotional trapped-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-deathride that characterized the pace of Heart-Shaped Box. Mr. Hill has chosen instead to allow his narrative to develop at a slower pace, weaving the story through the memories of  Ig, and those whom the power of the horns allows him access.

We are taken on a journey that scales the heights of first love, and descends into the lowest levels of human depravity. This is not a novel for the easily offended; not a novel for those averse to deep philosophical (and demonstrative) questioning into the nature of good & evil; and certainly not a novel for those whose definition of dark fantasy is Twilight with the lights out.

Horns is a novel for fans who loved the themes of Voluntary Committal & Gunpowder, but found themselves wishing that he had explored those themes in greater detail. For those readers just beginning your Wonderland dive into the mind of Joe Hill, I would recommend 20th Century Ghosts & Gunpowder as excellent places to start, with the huge caveat that 20thCG’s opening story, Best New Horror, is no joke – it is one of the most frightening shit-in-your-pants tales you will ever find in print.

For those interested in a more thorough analysis of the story, including how it relates to my understanding of good & evil, stay tuned for my Horns Review Part Two: Curse God & Die.


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  1. […] For those who missed the first part, catch yourself up here. […]

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