Blowin’ his own HORNS

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.


7 thoughts on “Blowin’ his own HORNS

  1. I can’t think of a better OTTBF than having orangutans that throw back feces.

    Poo-flinging men-of-the-forest would be an OTTBF, for sure!

  2. I gotta say that HORNS really really got to me. Honestly? I cried a lot at the final scenes the ending. Partially because I have a real soft spot for monsters in love (perhaps because I am one) but also because it triggered memories of the girl I went out with back in college and our wonderful and disastrous romance.

    Being a loving monster myself, I can sort of understand what you mean, but … is your wife okay with you carrying a torch for a woman you dated twenty years ago?

    She and I still speak and she has a read HORNS also and it made her think of what we had in the old days too.

    Wow. Just … wow.

    So I guess whatever else we may think of the book Joe Hill hit a real vein of emotional truth in the story. In fact his work hit me harder than some of his father’s work.

    I’m sure Joe would LOVE to know how much the book impacted and touched you Al. Why don’t you leave him a comment on his blog/website/Amazon page (if there is one)? Or Tweet it to him, if you haven’t already?

    Now go read Perdido Street Station by China Miéville it will knock you on your arse.

    I’ll see if the local biblio-repository has it. Thanks. 🙂 Next up for me, though, is some Ray Chandler.

  3. Oh, also I have a big weakness for ‘Over The Top Big Finish’ so read my work with extreme caution!


    Only serial of yours I follow is Heartbreaks and Price Breaks right now, bud. Good luck goin’ OTT for THAT one. 😉

  4. I STILL haven’t read any of his work! Dangit, I need to put him at the top of my TBR list.

    You could try and find Twentieth Century Ghosts to see if you like his style. I thought he did a good job with both his books, but I liked Horns a little better than Heart Shaped Box, TBH.

  5. Hmmm…I guess I didn’t know that the son is following his dad’s famous path. I’ll have to give the books a read…if I can tear myself away from the TV.

    There’s a whole new frontier out there in the pages of a book, Holls. 😉

  6. King’s son wasn’t even on my radar until you told me about him. I have a list of books i am grabbig from the library. When I am done with them I am going to definitely look for some Joe Hill books.

    I think you’ll enjoy them, Bob. 🙂 Happy hunting at the library!

  7. I also liked Horns a little more than HSB and a little less than 20th Century Ghosts.

    But my bitch about Joe Hill is that he has been congenitally cursed with his father’s penchant for flipping me his political middle finger in ways that don’t advance the plot or develop characters.

    Holy crap, thank GOD. I thought I was the ONLY frickin’ one to get pissed about that.

    Just added in for the sake of adding in: “Fuck you, Conservative! Cheney joke. Halliburton Joke. Bush joke. Har har. Wink to everyone because the entire country is a political suburb of New York and Massachusetts!”

    Uh… Okay… Can I have my Conservative $26 back then, Fuckwit?

    AMEN! Write the effin’ book, Joe. I’ll vote and think how I want.


    I’m really getting tired of this crap. Some forms of entertainment should be apolitical.

    Puh-LEEZE say it’s gonna be a law soon.

    Good to see you, Bro! Glad you sounded off. 🙂

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