Horns is the third book I have read by Joe Hill, and so far it’s my absolute favorite. The first of his books I read was 20th Century Ghosts (2005), not realizing at the time who he was. Years later, Tyson lent me Heart Shaped Box (2007) and told me all about this guy who is Stephen King’s son and writes really cool stories! I got the book, and in reading his bio I put two and two together and realized he was the same guy from 20th Century Ghosts! Having thoroughly enjoyed both Ghosts and Box, I immediately downloaded Horns on my Nook. It has a brilliant mix of humor, vivid graphic imagery, and philosophical content. I debated whether I should write this review as an homage; a complete spoiler detailing the many, many things I loved about the book…or if I should keep it short and simple, and concentrate only on the broader aspects…then it occurred to me that spoiling this read for anyone would be a crime, so I went with the latter approach.
The story is very Kafka-ean in nature. Ignatius Parrish wakes up one day with, as the title suggests, horns on his head. He has no idea how or why they’re there, and neither does the reader. The book essentially takes you on his journey as he navigates through life with his new appendages, and tries to discover what he did that landed him in that situation. While the premise may seem weird and even uninteresting at first – I personally thought it couldn’t be better than Heart Shaped Box – the book surprised me, developing extremely well and keeping your attention at all times. The reader goes back and forth between current time, and memories of the past (both Ig’s and other characters’) and it all weaves together perfectly to paint the big picture. The thing I’ve gathered about Joe Hill is that he doesn’t write anything by accident. His clever use of references, names, and places all tie in with the story; and more so than his other books I’ve read so far, Horns has a heart and the courage to tackle some really major conventions we have all come to accept as dogma, even if on the background of the main story. I often found myself contemplating my own beliefs and views while reading it, looking at many things from a different perspective.
Hill is very reminiscent of his father in his early days. Any horror nerd agrees that Stephen King is the quintessential horror author, but I have to admit, he hit a phase when his work was boring me more than scaring me, and I walked away from him. Joe Hill not only instills in me the same kinds of shivers I got from The Shining and Pet Sematary, he made me want to give King a second shot. I am a devoted fan now! I realize this review is as much about Hill as it is about Horns, but that is by design, as I really don’t want to ruin the story for you guys. In any case, I really did love it and recommend it to anyone looking for a good read!