Horns by Joe Hill

You've got horns, Harry!

You've got horns, Harry!

Our antihero, Ignatius ("Ig") Perrish, wakes after a night of his usual debauchery to find that he's sprouted horns. His new appendages come with a terrible--if sometimes terribly useful--ability to pull the truth out of all those he meets. As he continues his transformation into Devil, a murder mystery unfolds. Not so much a whodunnit, though, Horns is more of a why-does-anyone-do-anything, "what lies in the dark depths of man" novel. 

Joe Hill writes some mean, spell-binding prose. It's lyrical and reads fast because he sucks me right in. He does meander a bit, but at least when he does, he tells interesting back stories. I watched the movie first, and my terrible memory doesn't remember it that well, but I don't think that it even scratched the surface of Hill's novel.

Though well-rounded as far as variety of character and an ever-more-involving plot, I didn't find that Hill adequately explained why Ig turned into the Devil. Hill throws a lot of ideas at us, as if to cover up the fact that he can't explain it. I feel a bit bamboozled, but Horns is fun and exciting, with intensely interesting insights and turns-of-phrase. The story of what Lee does to his mother is cringe-worthy enough to win the Jack Ketchum Award.

I am going to mention that he has his dad's belligerent view of homosexuality. As in King's work, Hill uses homosexuality as a prank, a punishment, or some villainous trait. I've never thought that King meant anything by it--just an old-school Maine blind spot. But Joe Hill represents a new generation. To some of you this may seem like a non sequitur, but this is important to me. If he's going to write about it, why does he think it needs to be some nasty secret?

Overall, a good read. Four Dweller Heads!

Review by Michael Schutz



Michael Schutz

Michael Schutz was born and raised in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin, where the macabre tales of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King kept him warm at night. He’s seen way too many horror movies to be healthy and blogs and podcasts about them on Darkness Dwells. Watch for his new novel, Edging, from Burning Willow Press in spring 2017. He is the author of the novel Blood Vengeance and the novella Uninoch. His short fiction has been featured most recently in Dark Moon Digest, Sanitarium, and the anthologies Beasts: Revelations, Beyond the Nightlight, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull. He lives with his three naughty cat-children in northern California.