Over the weekend I did a lot reading. One of the books I’ve already told you about – Robert Jackson Bennett’s Mr. Shivers (see last post).
One of the other books is by a guy quickly becoming one of my favorite writers because of his style and strength of prose, but losing me by pushing his own … I dunno … self, I guess, in his books, on Twitter, yadda yadda yadda.
Anyway … I’m not going to talk about why I don’t like it. I will say, it’s a good strong effort, well-written, a page turner. Despite being almost 400 pages I finished it in two sittings, which is unusual for me.
The book is called Horns, and the author is Joe Hill (King).
It’s no secret I love his dad, have had a hero thing for his father since the late 70s. But Joe has won my admiration on his own merit apart from that, with his good writing and familiar style. I like how he writes, period. His first novel, Heart Shaped Box, was a pretty interesting ghost story with an un-King-like happy ending. His short story collection, Twentieth Century Ghosts, showed a huge variety of stuff and I found most of them enjoyable.
In Horns, the story starts with a strong hook – a guy is drunk and doing terrible things. Next morning he wakes up with horns on his head. Horns … like the Devil’s horns. The story is how a young man, trapped in a dead-end town with no future to speak of is haunted on the anniversary of the death of his girlfriend by memories of their romance, tragic break-up, and her rape and murder.
Joe unfolds the story in a good way, building the pressure on his protagonist in ever-mounting degrees. Before long the protagonist is finding out the Devil really is in the details and he’s finally figuring out what happened that fateful night a year ago.
Halfway through the novel, the timeline changes to his first encounter with his sweetheart ten years earlier. We meet the other key players in the events, and for a while we stay in tight third person with the protagonist. But at another point, we shift POV to another character and we learn more about why things went the way they do. In the end, there’s the final confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist and it’s sort of a role reversal because the protagonist is the one who looks like Satan.
Not an OTTBF*, and I thought just a hair anticlimactic, considering everywhere Joe might’ve gone with the book, but it was still mostly satisfying.
Once again, it’s full of things which made me roll my eyes and snicker (the theology in it is absolutely hysterical), but I really liked the style and the ease of the read. It went down smooth and warm, like a fine sherry.
So, I recommend it. I give it four out of five stars, but then, I’m partial to the Kings.
* – Remember, this is Over The Top Big Finish; when a book, movie or play goes way too far, way to farcical, in an attempt to create that big-bang ending. I don’t like ‘em.