Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Horns is a novel by Joe Hill about a guy name Ig Perrish, whose girlfriend Merrin was raped and murdered, for which he was blamed. He didn't do it but due to circumstances beyond his control, nobody believed him.
A year after Merrin's death, Ig wakes up with horns growing out of his head. When people catch sight of the horns they go into a sort of trance and start telling Ig their sinful thoughts and desires. When he touches people, he can see their entire pasts (or just the bad parts; I'm not sure which). He decides to use this newfound power to find out who killed Merrin.
I first read about Horns in an SFX Magazine Horror Special and, based on the description they provided, I really, really wanted to read it. Now that I have read it ... ehh. I don't regret it, exactly, but I do think I could've waited until I found it for three bucks at a library sale or something.
It's not that I didn't like Horns. It's just not what I wanted. I was hoping for a sort of supernatural whodunnit, a guy using the information people give him while under the influence of his horns and piecing together the mystery of what happened to Merrin.
It wasn't like that, not at all. We, and Ig, are told fairly early on in the book who the murderer was. There's a lot of jumping back and forth in time, a bit of seeing various parts of the story from different people's points of view and the book is less about any sort of mystery as it is about Ig's internal and external struggles: coming to terms with Merrin's death, coming to terms with his own turning into a (the?) devil, deciding what to do to get revenge on Merrrin's killer, various other religious jargle that was simultaneously interesting and lost on me. There was a lot of talk about sin and personal demons.
So Horns was interesting and, yeah, I guess it was entertaining. It just took me 'til damn near the end of the book before I came to terms with the fact that it wasn't what I wanted it to be, so I only really enjoyed it in retrospect.
It's interesting to make a (the?) devil the protagonist; I'm still not sure if I liked the guy. I liked him better as a devil than a person, but that isn't necessarily saying much.
I absolutely didn't like the sociopath who killed Merrin (and it is made perfectly clear that the killer was a sociopath; several chapters are told from that character's point of view), but I didn't really like Merrin, either. She struck me as rather one-note, too perfect. Oh, she was beautiful, she was kind, she and Ig were made for each other, blah blah blah. Everything you've ever read about any "perfect" girl in a book is what Merrin was. Everybody loved her, there was nothing wrong with her, I'm falling asleep. Even the mid-book attempt to give her some semblance of harshness turns out to be bullshit. Characters like that are boring.
I guess I liked Ig's brother, but he was a little too perfect, too. Even the sin he confesses to under the influence of the horns isn't his own.
Maybe that was the main problem with Horns: the only character with any layers was Ig, but his layers consisted mainly of "I love Merrin" and "I'm a (the?) devil now." All the other characters were too perfect, like Terry and Merrin, or awful because they're either sociopaths or they're under the influence of Ig's devil horns. We only ever get to see their sinful sides, which is just as boring as having characters painted as fucking perfect.
I'm being unfair. Horns wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to be. I feel bad for judging it so harshly. It wasn't what I wanted it to be, so in spite of the fact that it was an interesting, well written story, I'm verbally bashing it.
Which, considering the premise of the book, seems almost appropriate. It's like I fell under the influence of Ig's horns and am saying mean things without meaning to, and I'll barely remember it later.
Overall, Horns is a book that I will end up recommending to other people but I will probably not read it again myself. (Sorry, Joe Hill.) It really is a better book than I give it credit for.
Now if only someone would write that supernatural whodunnit I wanted.

End of line.

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