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4.2 out of 5 stars245
4.2 out of 5 stars
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I think that Joe Hill has managed to tap into a genuine primal fear with this novel. What if you could read their minds with a single touch? Now part of you might be thinking, `this would be great'. But I'm going to have to disagree. Could there be anything worse than knowing exactly what the people around you think of you? I am sure the reality would be a lot like the situation depicted in Horns. You would immediately start to learn things that you just didn't ever want to know. I don't think it would take long to discover that underneath the thin veneer of society a lot of individuals are way freakier than they appear on the surface. Ig Perrish learns this the hard way as he descends into his own private hell. The good news is that the reader gets to follow him, every step of the way.

I should stress that it's not all doom and gloom though. There is some welcome dark humour particularly when Ig tries to master his new powers. He takes some amusing, if slightly petty, revenge against those that have slighted him in the past. I couldn't help but feel that all the various characters got exactly what they deserved in this regard. Almost without exception, everyone wants to see Ig just disappear, so it seems only fair that they get what is coming to them.

This is the first novel by Joe Hill that I have read and I was heartily impressed. The main protagonist is placed in a terrible situation and I was compelled to follow his journey. The novel is very dark but also surprisingly life affirming. There are some flashbacks that cover Ig's first meeting with Merrin and the beginning of their relationship. These add additional depth to the characters and made it easy to empathise with Ig's predicament.

At the novel's core this is a story about understanding the key components of relationships. The relationships between Ig and Merrin, Ig and his family, and Ig and his friend Lee are all examined as Ig is forced to confront the ugly truths in his life. Horns is an intimate story that provides fresh insight into the nature of love, longing, jealousy and revenge.

If you like the idea of giving Mr Hill's work a try you could do a lot worse than start here. On the strength of Horns I now look forward to picking up his other novels.

Phew! I managed to get through this entire review without mentioning Stephen King once.....oh damn.
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on 17 October 2014
Horns is the first book by Joe Hill that I have read. With the film being released I wanted to read the book before watching the movie, because as everyone knows the book is always better than the movie. I went into this one blind, I had seen so many friends post positive reviews that I decided I would give it a go and not read the blurb before diving in.

I enjoyed Horns, the characters were easy to like and to dislike in the case of the bad guy. The picture Hill creates of small town life, of love, loss and revenge, pulls you into the story and plays on all sorts of emotions and fears.

Horns is a tale of good verses evil that is dark, twisted and original, one that I'm sure many horror fans will enjoy.
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on 10 June 2013
Ignatious Perrish (Ig) is the prime suspect in the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Merrin, who died a year ago. No charges have ever been brought, but everyone, including his own family, believes him to be guilty. On the anniversary of Merrin's death, Ig goes out on the mother of all benders, urinates on the Virgin Mary, and wakes up the next morning with horns. He soon discovers these horns have the power to make people reveal their darkest secrets to him and after having some fun with it, he inadvertently begins to discover more than he bargained for about Merrin's murder. In between present day chapters, the tale flashes backwards to Ig's teenage years, telling the story the will eventually end in tragedy to explain what is happening to Ig now.

The story is a great idea and the sprinklings of humour are very well done. However, where it loses me is when it suddenly diverges to flashback and stays there for chapter after chapter with no warning. There is no segue, leaving the jump feel out of place. There is also a fair amount of what seems like filler. I feel the book could have been a hundred pages shorter without really losing anything. There is excessive description of people and events that aren't actually relevant to the tale. I found myself skimming quite a lot.

This isn't a mystery as we know whodunnit fairly early on. I suppose it could be a coming of age tale, but the flashbacks feel too disjointed for that to be fully realised. It seems like a book that could have used a firm hand from an editor. The sudden changes in setting, time, place and tone don't really work for me and made it difficult for me to settle in to the story and properly care about the characters.

The ending felt rushed and didn't offer anything that felt like a resolution for me. Not that I need everything wrapped up in a neat little bow, but we'd been expected to sit through a lot of ups and downs and excessive description for very little pay off.

With all that said, I didn't actually dislike this book. It had many strong ideas, the premise was interesting and the Perrish family were very well realised. It just felt like it kept "almost" being excellent, but stayed at "quite good" instead.

I've enjoyed Locke & Key - Hill's graphic novel - and I am happy to read more from the author. Hill is clearly a talented writer with a head full of creative ideas. This one maybe just wasn't completely for me.
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on 4 January 2012
Helen H says: Kafka meets Milton meets unknown others in Tragi-comic, complicated easy-reading love-horror-thriller. Gripped me from start to finish. Appears simple in many ways, but the complexity underlying is compelling and very readable. The novel works on various levels; philosophical, in parts intellectual, in parts dark comic, in parts psychological, and in parts love story - parts, parts, parts ... But it remains intact as a whole. The characters are well written and believable - and his playing around with the ideas of perception, belief and reality are entertaining, enthralling, un-nerving, familiar and refreshing. Joe Hill has a wonderful writing style which is both unfamiliar and familiar - a book to read in one sitting, or visit again. Go for it, it won't take up much of your life and you won't come away from it with regrets thinking 'well that's time I'll never have back again'. I've never read this author before, but if I come across other stuff he's done I'll give it a go. I didn't give it a 5 star review, simply because I would have liked a little less romance and a little less satisfying closure - but that's personal and I'm hard to please - well done Joe Hill - 4 star +. A brave, bold and almost fairy-tale-like quality makes you want to keep reading just to see where he's going with it next - it must have taken a lot of concentration to keep it under control - at times it felt like the book had a mind of it's own. Christian purists may be offended, or they may even claim it for their own - I do hope not. Freudish fans could see it as a study of multiple personality-like conditions - or schizophrenia even. I get the feeling a reading club discussion held around this novel would be very interesting and entertaining.
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on 20 December 2010
Well I bought this on the recommendation of a friend. I knew nothing about it and didn't even read the blurb on the back of the book and I have to say, for me that is the way to read it!

It's a wonderful book from the very stylish and cool cover to the unpredictable and bonkers plot.

I will give nothing away other than to say pretty much anything can happen, the easily offended and possibly Daily Mail readers should steer a path round it! And it has :-

A Great story, lots of twists and turns, it's sad, funny, gripping and has a cast of great fully realised characters. It's not really a horror or ghost story...I don't quite know how to catagorise it in fact, and I'm not sure I need to. Just read it and see what you think.

I have read a few great books this year, The Brother's Grossbart and Killer of men to name two but this is right up with them. Joe Hill is an author to be watched and has a real gift for story. Enjoy the ride!
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on 25 November 2015
When I finished this book, I felt inexplicably cross. All I kept thinking was: "that was so, so bad." Upon reflection, it perhaps was not as awful as all that but I think a good summation of how I felt about this book was when I noticed there were still about 150 (Kobo) pages left and I wondered how the author was going to fill them.

The book starts off well: I liked the concept of people's darkest thoughts being revealed, it's almost unbearably nihilistic. There's no beauty and no good and it's stifling in it's pessimism about the human condition. However, the book really took a turn for the worse with the flashbacks. I felt these were a bit jarring, and far too convoluted. Entire chapters are spent on mediocre events, like Merrin flashing her cross at Ig and Ig and his brother mucking about with fireworks and trolleys... I do understand why the author spends time on these, they are supposed to lay the foundation for e.g. why the cross is important, and the nature of Ig and Lee's relationship but boy, they are really boring to read. I skim read massive chunks of this book because I wanted to get back to the central conceit of Ig as the devil.

Lee as a character was interesting but I really couldn't have cared less about Ig and Merrin's relationship which was a problem as this forms a central strand of the narrative (more than I was expecting actually, I thought more attention would have been paid to Ig's revenge).

Overall, there are some really good parts in this book, but overall I just did not find it interesting or engaging.
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on 25 April 2010
When Ig Perrish wakes up after a night of drunken self-pity, he finds a pair of enormous horns sprouting from his forehead.

This is only the first in a series of uncomfortable transformations: people share their darkest secrets with him, he can flawlessly imitate other voices, snakes gaze at him longingly and there's even a bit of awkward fire-breathing.

The demonization of Ig Perrish is only the latest thing to go wrong for him. Ig's been the town outcast for a year - ever since his girlfriend was found raped & murdered on the edge of town. Merrin had just dumped Ig (in public), so the popular sentiment has varied between 'string him up' and 'set him on fire first'.

Ig quickly discovers that the horns (and everything that goes with them) aren't a full-on curse, as much as they are a mixed blessing. With their eerie, mind-altering abilities, it doesn't take him long to discover the truth behind Merrin's death. The challenge, however, is in what he can do about it.

In Horns, Joe Hill writes a deliciously & aggressively blasphemous book. The town's stockpile of good Christians (including the pastor) are quickly revealed as unpleasant hypocrites. The role of God and prayer are challenged from start to finish - with Ig repeatedly reaching the same conclusion: while God is an absentee parent, the Devil's got humanity's best interests at heart. Perhaps the high point is Ig's own sermon on the mount - at the moment he accepts his fate, he declaims his new vision to an audience of snakes. The speech is tender and hilarious (the Devil is pro-Love and anti-polyester).

But the sympathy for the Devil shtick isn't where Hill's true daring comes into play. In Ig, Joe Hill has created an omniscient, omnipotent, invulnerable protagonist. And, yet Horns is neither boring nor predictable. Just because Ig knows everything doesn't mean he's put it all together - he's got the power of the Devil, but the mind of an ordinary guy. The mystery is unravelled one tantalizing piece at a time, culminating in a sequence of genuine surprises and revelations - and one hell of an explosive climax.

Horns is an absolutely brilliant piece of work that snared me from the first pages. Initially in awe ("How could this possibly keep up for an entire book?"), I was very quickly absorbed in Ig & Merrin's story. For a book that stars the Devil, this is a very human drama. And for a second novel, Hill's already written his name in the (five-pointed) stars.
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on 29 April 2015
Full disclosure - I saw the film first (and whatever fans of the book have said, it's still a good adaptation.) Which led me on to try the book. This is blackly comedic and acerbic with glints of true darkness threaded throughout. Ig is a convincingly decent guy, a good guy without it being spelled out. Of course his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness because it makes him incapable of seeing real nastiness, even evil, in other people. We the privileged, omniscient readers, get to detect this in Lee, for example, long before Ig is suspicious of him.

On the surface the premise sounds preposterous; man grows horns and appears to be turning into the devil. I wish I was in that pitch session - I could have learned enough to make my career. Anyway however it sounds, it reads pitch perfect. If you've seen the film, this is worth a read as it fills in some blanks and expands on things the film could not cover - the treehouse was an especially nice touch. If you haven't seen the film or read the book and you like your humour pitch black with some highly quotable lines and few really deep thinks to kick the grey matter into gear, then give this a whirl. It's a bit of a slow starter but utterly addictive when you get going.
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on 23 July 2012
As Ignatius Parrish awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found he had grown a pair of horns on his head.

The above isn't the Kafka-esque first line of Joe Hill's second novel, but it could well have been. Ig Parrish, son of a famous father (as well as sibling to a famous brother) and boyfriend of a murdered girlfriend, awakes one morning with a pair of horns on his head. At first these strange new ornaments terrify him, particularly when they allow him to hear the innermost desires of the people he meets and even to encourage them to act on them. But gradually he starts to embrace the horns, and unleash the devil within him.

Without a doubt this is one of the more Interesting horror novels I've read in a while. Hill embraces this intriguing concept and enthusiastically runs with it, to produce a sharp and entertaining read. If I have a quibble it did feel a bit padded at points (and another [small] quibble, there is a jarring - self-referential by remove - moment of referencing his father's debut novel, the kind of trick which can really jar a reader from the narrative), but this is one of the most original and thought provoking thrillers I've got my hands on for quite some time.
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on 13 October 2010
A great premise for a story and it didn't disappoint. I enjoyed this book it was well written, cleverly executed and relevant, and although the genre is horror there was also comedy, love, tragedy and mystery.

Joe Hill has an ability akin to his father - he makes you care about all the characters, and even when the antihero, Ig, did some questionable deeds I still found myself rooting for him all the way.

How often have I invested a lot of time and effort into a book only to be let down by a rushed, disappointing and unsatisfactory ending? Well not this time thank goodness, Mr Hill skillfully drew his characters to a very satisfying climax.

A warning - There are some rather graphic scenes both macabre and sexual in nature so if you are easily offended this book is not for you!
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