Horns, by Joe Hill

Horns Book Cover Horns
Joe Hill
Horror, supernatural, paranormal
Feb 2010

On GoodReads, this novel is shelved as "Horror", "Supernatural", "Paranormal", "Thriller", and whatnot.  It is all of those things, but I feel like it doesn't provide a full picture. I often feel like that after reading this kind of thing.  There are readers who'll look at genre labels and automatically translate it to mean not real good.   And then they'll miss out on books like Horns.

Just as with most of the genres i read, of course - but I get a stronger sense of it with supernatural/horror than with, for instance, hard science fiction, because your average-reader is much more likely to pick up a paranormal thriller on the "popular choices"-shelf than suddenly finding and choosing KSR's Red Mars.  Right.  Well. Rant.  I don't know why I even type this; I don't consider book snobbery a problem, just sometimes bafflingly misguided.

So, uh. This is a story about a dude who grows horns.

That's it. That's what we have here.  Ignacious Parrish wakes up one day with a terrible hangover; the kind where you feel like your skull is splitting. And it is.   He has no idea what's going on, and asking for advice or help is problematic, as everyone is suddenly very bent on telling him their terrible true thoughts about him, what they think he did to his dead girlfriend, and everything else they have terrible secret thoughts about.

They can see the horns, too, so he has to let go of the plausible explanation, which would be some sudden mental illness unfolding between his eyes and the mirror.

He didn't kill his girlfriend - but he needs to know who did.   Is that what the horns are for? What happened last night? What he remembers is crude and un-churchly, but not quite enough to warrant demonic transformation or godly punishment... is it?  Ig was never that kind of man - actually, it was in church he first met his girlfriend.   He has lived very comfortably as the child of rich, somewhat famous parents, but spends his own time on volunteer work for charity and children's summer camps.   He's supposed to be the good guy - not the guy constantly rubbing his goatee.

Joe Hill brings humor and stylish prose to the story, painting everything vividly in words, so much that I kept wondering why this became a novel when we know he knows his way around writing graphic novels, too. (Locke & Key, the last volume of which I still haven't read, and it bothers me a lot.)   That's not a complaint - just an attempt at saying something about what the author's strenghts are.  In my post-read contentment, I'm crossing my fingers he  has a long, very long future bibliography, and that it branches out from its supernatural roots, high and low into other genres.

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