four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
46-May-June-2010
By: 
Joe Hill
user_rating: 
0

A-HornsJoe Hill (Stephen King's son) is the author of the novel Heart-Shaped Box ( 3 of 5 Stars May/June 2007) and the short story collection 20th Century Ghosts (2005).

The Story: Ignatius Perrish's life was already something of a living hell. His lifelong sweetheart was brutally raped and murdered, and while no one was ever charged with the crime, everyone in their New England town thinks he did it. On the first anniversary of her death, after a long night of drinking alone, "Ig" awakens to discover he has not just a serious hangover but a small pair of bony horns growing from his head. No one can see the horns, but they do feel the horns' power as the townspeople willingly reveal to Ig their darkest thoughts about him and everything else. At first, this forthrightness seems like just another curse, but then Ig realizes he can use it to solve his girlfriend's murder.
William Morrow. 384 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780061147951

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"What makes [Horns] exceptional is Hill's psychological insight as he dramatises Ig's plight. ... As an examination of the forces of good and evil, and all the shades in between, Horns is a remarkable achievement." Eric Brown

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The book provides some of the same thrills we've come to expect from comics and films that return to the origin story of a perhaps too-familiar superhero. But in Horns, we watch a devil learn how to be one. ... Here is a richly nuanced story that traces the catastrophes of adult lives gone wrong to the complex and fraught relationships of children." Jedediah Berry

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"As good as Heart-Shaped Box was, Horns is a sophomore effort to be proud of, a fresh, tough-minded take on what it means to make a deal with the devil and your own worst nature." Michael Berry

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"In scenes sometimes gorgeously sensual, sometimes wrenchingly grotesque, Horns ranges between flashbacks of Ig's childhood and first experience of love to his hate-filled quest for revenge. ... Hill's survey of the question of suffering is a wild ride, as filled with thrills as his hero's headlong plunge down to a dark and dazzling river." Nisi Shawl

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Hill's father is Stephen King, and he shares King's gift for grounding fantasy and horror in a convincingly detailed real world, and for using the fantastic elements of his fiction to illuminate the human ones. Horns is not only scary, it's insightful, often funny and sometimes sweetly romantic." Colette Bancroft

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Hill writes with such palpable enthusiasm that he has no trouble hooking readers, especially with a book that is clearly on the side of the angels, though hellbent on using every devil reference it can. ... Mr. Hill, whose outstandingly inventive first novel was Heart-Shaped Box (2007), is able to combine intrigue, editorializing, impassioned romance and even fiery theological debate in one well-told story." Janet Maslin

Onion AV Club 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Horns ties together a little too neatly, but it never betrays the broken hearts at its core. Instead, it finds sympathy for them in the most unlikely places." Zack Handlen

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Horns isn't a perfect novel, but it's devilishly good. ... He has a special talent for taking us and his characters to very weird places." Carol Memmott

Critical Summary

Critics across the board felt possessed by Horns and strongly recommended it to horror fans and general readers alike. But the devil is in the details, and it seemed as if each reviewer felt obligated to find a minor flaw in the book. Some disliked the structure of its plot, others felt the tone to be uneven, and a few were overwhelmed by the book's many devil references and puns. All of those critics, though, were ultimately persuaded by Hill's sympathetic characters, his combination of the best of horror with psychological fiction, and his consistent originality.