Horns by Joe Hill
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a pair of horns growing from his temples.
At first, Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who had been raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.
Once, the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed. But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. Nothing Ig can do or say matters. Everyone it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone that is, but the devil inside. . . .
Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. It’s time for a little revenge . . . it’s time the devil had his due . . . (via Goodreads)
I picked up Horns due to its Stoker nominee status. It’s been a while since I’ve read any contemporary horror, and the premise of this book is related to the devil, a topic that is handled considerably less often than zombies and vampires. I remember trying to read Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box a few years back but it never caught with me. The beginning of Horns is a major hook. A man wakes up with horns. Where do we go from here?
The hook was enough to carry me through unsympathetic characters and a pile of bland back-story. There’s a very interesting tale of good, evil, love and forgiveness in this novel, but it’s stuffed into the last third of the book. The other two-thirds are uncomfortable and boring. Mostly the latter. The story of these characters before Merrin’s death is not that interesting and not that needed. I’ve heard that Hill is quite a good short story writer. If that’s so, I wish he would have condensed those annoyingly flat chapters. By the end of the novel, Hill does a fair job of fitting together the pieces of the plot, and there are some nice touches, but he goes through great lengths to tie everything up when it’s not needed either.
In all, it was an okay book, but not one I’d recommend.