Stephen's Reviews > Horns

Horns by Joe Hill
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1413439
's review
Feb 20, 12

bookshelves: ebooks, signed-first-or-limited-edition, audiobook, fantasy, 2006-2010, horror, angels-demons-heaven-hell
Read from August 29 to 30, 2010

horns-book-cover-02-1v2

Joe Hill has the story-telling gift and his terrific sophomore effort catapults him onto my “authors-to-watch” list. I had some heated internal debates regarding what final rating to tag this with as I vacillated between 5, 4 and 3 stars depending on where I was in the book, eventually settling on a very strong 4. I don’t think this ratings quandary necessarily reflects uneven levels of quality in Hill’s execution. Rather, I think the back and forth resulted from the subtlety and complexity of the story Hill was telling which caught me a bit off guard.

You know how some works you go into knowing that you need to be focused and mindful of parsing sentences for hidden nuggets of meaning, while other stories you can come to far more passively and just sit back and let them entertain you. Well I think I came to this story expecting the latter and thus was not as “active” in my reading when confronted with some of the depth that Hill brought to this story. I’m not saying this is Joyce (and thank goodness for that), but Hill shows some surprising chops for digging into the underbelly of who we are.

PLOT SUMMARY:

Horns is broken up into 50 chapters, five main segments of 10 chapters each.

Chapter’s 1-10: Hell

These opening chapters were a lot of fun and sported some wonderful dialogue (and monologue) as Ig, the main character, wakes up with a massive hangover and discovers, much to his “what manner of fuckery is this” surprise, that he has horns. In addition to the hat-handicapping appendages, Ig quickly discovers that he is able to provoke people into spilling their darkest secrets and into acting on their darkest desires. As Ig is struggling to come to grips with his new reality, we also learn that his life has been a deep dark place for many years following the brutal rape and murder of his girlfriend. Everyone, including Ig’s family, believes he is guilty of the crime though he was never tried for it.

I was at an awe-laden FIVE STARS for pure surface enjoyment and snappy dialogue and this section ends with a big reveal regarding the murder of Ig's girlfriend (Merrin Williams).

Chapter’s 11-20: Cherry

This second section of the book was the slowest part of the novel and the one I enjoyed the least. In it, Ig recalls his childhood and his early interaction with the main players of the story, Merrin Williams, Lee Tourneau and Ig's brother Terry Perrish. I found this section to be a serious downshifting to the pace established in Part I and I noticed that my attention began to drift. However, as I mentioned above, I think I may not have given Hill enough credit for under the surface meaning here. In hindsight, given how the story ended, this section provides some critical information that is essential to the eventual resolution and probably deserved a better effort from me while I was reading it. As it is, I had this labeled at 3.0 stars.

Chapter’s 21-30: Fire Sermon

Ramping right back up into 4/5 star territory, this segment details the day of Merrin’s murder and had me fascinated and glued to the page. I don’t want to spoil this by saying any more but Hill shows a tremendous gift for exploring the dark in this segment. He must have had a very good teacher.

Chapter’s 31-40: Fixer

Here Hill switches gears again and shows us the world through the eyes of Lee Tourneau, Ig's best fried growing up. These are the best chapters in the book in my opinion. Lee is a superbly drawn character and his portrayal by Joe Hill is subtle, complex and brilliant. It was while reading this segment that I truly began to see that there was far, far more to this novel than simply a well-written dark fantasy.

Chapter’s 41-50: Gospel According to Mick and Keith

The final 10 chapters tie the novel together into a very satisfying, though somewhat unexpected, ending. I thought the use of the "Treehouse of the Mind" was a nice device and showed Hill’s skill for imagery as he illustrates the battle raging within Ig. While part of me would have liked a little more clarification on the meaning of the treehouse, most of me was pleased that I was allowed to arrive at my own conclusion about what the imagery and I can't call that a bad thing.

THOUGHTS:

Overall, this was an excellent novel and one that I intend to revisit at some point as I think a second reading may provide a more robust appreciation for the story. For now, I think it’s safe to say that if you enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel, this novel may blow you away. Both Hill's writing and story-telling have improved significantly over his debut novel and I expect some truly amazing work from him in the future.

This guy has talent and I like that both of his stories have been unique and "off the beaten path."

4.0 to 4.5 stars. Highly Recommended!!
168 likes · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Horns.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-38 of 38) (38 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by TK421 (new) - added it

TK421 This one eyes me from the shelf...perhaps sooner than expected I will read it.


Stephen Can you hear the book talking, it is saying.... read me Gavin, give in and read me, you know you want to...


message 3: by TK421 (new) - added it

TK421 I started it...ten down, forty to go. You're 100% right...on the surface, this is easily a 5 star book for regarding pure enjoyment


Stephen Gavin wrote: "I started it...ten down, forty to go. You're 100% right...on the surface, this is easily a 5 star book for regarding pure enjoyment"

Did you ever finish this one Gavin?


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Like all grifters, He asks you to pay now and take it on faith that you will receive later."

Well-chosen, pithy, and a perfect analysis of why it is that I do not believe in the old Minnesota Fats-in-the-sky.

Have I mentioned lately how very good your reviews are? And how very good I suspect anything longer than a review which you might endeavor to write would be? He asked, not nagging...not nagging at all!


Stephen Thank you, sir. Your encouragement continues to put a big smile on my face.

Richard wrote: "Well-chosen, pithy, and a perfect analysis of why it is that I do not believe in the old Minnesota Fats-in-the-sky."

Maybe not, but when I post my latest Cthulhu-honoring review, I am hopeful you will at last join the congregation.


message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim i was pleasantly surprised by this one. Definitely an author to watch out for.


message 8: by Markus (last edited Feb 20, 2012 03:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Markus I liked Joe Hills first book, this have been on my to-read a while now, your review reminded me to read this soon as possible. JH Locke & Key is also excellent.


Stephen Markus wrote: "I liked Joe Hills first book, this have been on my to-read a while now, your review reminded we to read this soon as possible. JH Locke & Key is also excellent."

I have Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft and hope to read it soon.


Stephen Kim wrote: "i was pleasantly surprised by this one. Definitely an author to watch out for."

My thoughts exactly.


message 11: by Anne (Booklady) (new)

Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo I abandoned the book about 1/3 into it...just didn't grab me. But I do want to read Heart-Shaped Box. Glad you liked it, though.


Trudi When I first read this Stephen, I was duly impressed just by how much meatier and ambitious a novel it is in comparison to Heart-Shaped Box. I first gave it four stars: I LOVED part 1, "Hell" -- that was so snap and original, just awesome. Unlike you, I also LOVED part 2 "Cherry". The flashback to childhood totally engaged me and if the story had stayed in that coming-of-age sweet spot longer I likely would have enjoyed the book even more. There's a reason why King's IT is one of my all-time favorites.

By the last two-thirds though, I was beginning to feel unsatisfied and distracted. The tale started to feel a little too "magic realism", rather than full-on supernatural. I've since dropped my rating a star to three. I do mean to give this book a second chance though because it is "meaty", and perhaps a re-read will show me the error of my ways :)


Stephen Anne (Booklady) wrote: "I abandoned the book about 1/3 into it...just didn't grab me. But I do want to read Heart-Shaped Box. Glad you liked it, though."

I hope you like Heart-Shaped Box more. It is a nice, original ghost story.


Stephen Trudi wrote: "When I first read this Stephen, I was duly impressed just by how much meatier and ambitious a novel it is in comparison to Heart-Shaped Box. I first gave it four stars: I LOVED part 1..."

I'll be curious to hear what you think if you give it another run. I agree your analysis regarding the switch to a more magical realism feel. I guess I just enjoyed the switch more than you. I am really looking forward to Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft and to see what Hill comes up with next.


Tamahome I liked this book too. Maybe his dad helped. I didn't even care about the developments later. I just liked how everyone acted around his new 'aura'.

I want the new key from Locke and Key, Vol. 2: Head Games. That's all I'll say.


message 16: by Keri (new) - rated it 4 stars

Keri Loved this book.


Stephen Keri wrote: "Loved this book."

Me too. Now I need to read Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft.


message 18: by Lea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lea I *LOVED* this book -- it broke my heart, but I enjoyed every word of it.


Stephen I am so happy to hear that, Lea. Have you read any of Hill's other work?


message 20: by Lea (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lea Stephen wrote: "I am so happy to hear that, Lea. Have you read any of Hill's other work?"

Just Heart-Shaped Box, which I didn't really like. It felt too . . . generic-drugstore-paperback-horror, does that make sense? (I grew up in a small town, LOL -- drugstore paperbacks or the limited library offerings, that was it!)

I completely agree with your comment that the writing between that book and this one is vastly improved -- not sure what Hill was doing in the time between books, but it seems like he really found his voice.


Stephen Lea wrote: "Just Heart-Shaped Box, which I didn't really like. It felt too . . . generic-drugstore-paperback-horror, does that make sense? (I grew up in a small town, LOL -- drugstore paperbacks or the limited library offerings, that was it!)."

I know exactly what you mean, Lea and that is a great description. I didn't dislike Heart-Shaped Box but agree that Horns is far superior in just about every respect.


Jeffrey Keeten I have been pleasantly surprised by Joe Hill. I didn't expect lightning to hit twice in the same family. He has proven to be a worthy successor to his father.


Stephen I felt the exact same way, Jeffrey. Sai King must be proud.


Robert I read all 4 collected editions of Locke & Key a few weeks ago and they blew me away. I knew nothing about Joe Hill before then. I'm adding this one to my To Read for sure.


Stephen Robert, I have heard nothing but great things about the Locke & Key series. I hope you have as much fun with this book.


Chloe Jacobs I have this on my nightstand, I think I'm going to have to crack it open sooner than later! Thanks for the great review :)


Stephen Thanks, Chloe. I hope you like this.


message 28: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Vasich It seems we had a similar experience with this book, although we differ on a few points. I was terribly bored with the portrayal of Lee in the Fixer section. I thought he was terribly two dimensional and comprised of nothing but 'pure evil'. We learn that every altruistic notion attributed to him by Ig was self-serving, and I can't remember anything he did that wasn't bad on some level. In particular, the treatment of Lee's mother was particularly despicable, and pushed him over into cartoon villain territory for me.

This is perhaps just a difference in preference, but I really would have liked to see that he wasn't all bad even if he was mostly bad. IMHO, this is where Hill shows a lot of the characteristics of his dad in crafting an evil that is nothing but evil.


Barbara This is a great review. I differ with Mike Vasich because I felt that while Lee was initially portrayed as being pure evil, the story about his head injury as a child made me feel for him. I believe that he had been damaged by that fall and therefore had no choice but to become the person he eventually became.


message 30: by Nick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nick Great review! I'm sold.


message 31: by Lain2 (new)

Lain2 Thank you for your review. It conveyed your opinion of the novel, without revealing too much. I look forward to reading "Horns", (with the lights on).


ADignorantium Well put. I thoroughly enjoyed Horns in much the same way. It was unexpectedly deep. The second part, Cherry reminded me of his dad's writing, with it's deep character development. I was a little disappointed with the ending, though I can't imagine it ending any other way. I will be re-reading it at some point.


message 33: by Nick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nick Craven Great review! I just got to "The Fixer" section of Horns which you claim to be the most solid chapters of the book but I have to admit I'm absolutely loving every part of Horns so far. Yes Cherry was treated like an info dump but I was still entertained.


Chris Inman This review pretty much sums up my step-by-step progression through the book as well, for example it was the Lee Tourneau chapters that really made me appreciate the full extent of Hill's writing complexity and subtle technique. However I never really found the chapters re-living Ig meeting Merrin, etc, to be a drag of any sort. Maybe becuase I had been told before hand that this was more than just a casually told horror story. Either way, you come to realise the importance of it in the end like you say. Brilliant review.


message 35: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan I'm even more excited to start reading this book after your review!


Melissa Karns Perfect review.


message 37: by Shin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Shin One of Joe Hill's best, right next to NOS4A2. Frankly it started out slow and I wasn't too interested but somewhere three chapters or so in, I was hooked.
A great insight to the evils of the simple human mind, and I don't know why but it felt reminiscent of his father's works (I am a huge Stephen King fan) even though the writing style is very different.


message 38: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric I did like the book - effectively read it in a single night - but I definitely disagree about Fixer. Easily the worst part of the book for me, revealing our villain to be delivered directly from Mustache-Twirler Central Casting - a monster for reasons that can best be described as "reasons." A complete slog to finish that portion of the book, and I honestly almost quit there.


back to top