Friday, October 31, 2014

Horns by Joe Hill

For the final selection in my R.I.P. Peril the First challenge, I read Horns by Joe Hill.  I chose this specifically as a counterpart to Joyland, hoping it would be an interesting father-son contrast.  I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting from this little experiment, but I can truthfully say that the talent of keeping a reader immersed in a page-turning story must be genetic, because Joe has it as much (or more, I think) than his dad.  Mrs. King is a writer as well, so we could even put together a writerly pedigree, I suppose.

The novel opens as the protagonist, Ignatius Martin Perrish ("Ig" for short, and I JUST NOW realized that his initials are "IMP" -- hmmmmmmm) awakens the morning after a drinking binge.  Ig is coming up on the one-year anniversary of the murder of his girlfriend Merrin Williams, and he would love to be able to forget about it and get over her.  Ig was accused of killing Merrin, but he was never charged in her murder for lack of evidence.

So imagine his surprise when he looks in the mirror and sees small horns beginning to grow out of his head.  And there's something else weird, too -- no one he meets actually sees the horns, or if they do, they forget about them immediately.  And they tell Ig things -- bad things -- that they want to do, and it's almost as if they are seeking his permission (or encouragement) to do them.  Ig is astounded and repulsed by this newfound power over others that he has, but he does eventually begin to use it, sometimes for "good" and sometimes for "evil" (I put those in quotes because the lines are masterfully blurred in this novel), and this alone makes for some very interesting situations.

The novel is a highly entertaining tale of Ig's efforts to both cope with his impending transformation and to find out who really killed Merrin and bring that person to justice (justice at Ig's hands, however).  And when he finds that person, he realizes that Merrin's killer is truly evil, and will require all of Ig's newly-acquired demonic "talents" to overcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The biggest thing I liked about this story was that it was not at all predictable.  Given the premise, one might think the story would unfold in certain ways, but it never went where I thought it was going.  Plus, even though Ig is progressively turning into a demon throughout most of the book, Hill manages to make him one of the most appealing, sympathetic, and understandable characters I have run across lately.  The reader really ends up rooting for Ig pretty early in the book -- at least I did.  And the ending, once again, is not predictable in the slightest, but wholly satisfying nonetheless.

It has not escaped my attention that the movie version of this book, with Daniel Radcliffe as Ig, opens in theaters today.  I'm not a fan of movie theaters for about 23,547 reasons, but I might have to venture out to one sometime soon and see what they did with this book.

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