Horns by Joe Hill is already being adapted for the big screen, starring Daniel Radcliffe (the photo is worth seeing!). I am vain about keeping on top of reading trends—although it’s probably impossible—and I wanted to read this before the rush. Also, it was filmed here in BC (in the suburb of Mission). The movie release date is October 11, 2013 for North America.
Ignatius Perrish is having a hell of a time (no pun intended). His girlfriend was raped and murdered, and he was originally accused of this heinous crime, but he was never formally removed as a suspect. Everyone assumes that his rich musician father got him off. Since then, he’s been villanized by the town, nursing his emotions, and often just getting drunk to cope. When he wakes up after passing out one night, he has a terrible hangover and discovers protrusions on his head. At first, he thinks he’s hallucinating, but slowly realizes that others can see them—and they respond in a very peculiar way.
The opening pages of the novel are set up really well. And as Ig learns quickly, most people don’t notice the horns, or if they do, they forget they saw them when they look away. He slowly learns how to control and make use of the powers the horns give him. People automatically want to tell Ig their terrible thoughts, confessions, and worst urges. If that wasn’t enough, when he physically touches them, he can see their experiences and memories in an instant.
Merrin Williams is dead, slaughtered under inexplicable circumstances, leaving her beloved boyfriend Ignatius Perrish as the only suspect. On the first anniversary of Merrin’s murder, Ig spends the night drunk and doing awful things. When he wakes the next morning he has a thunderous hangover . . . and horns growing from his temples. Ig possesses a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre gift he intends to use to find the monster who killed his lover. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. Now it’s time for revenge . . .
From the publisher, HarperCollins Canada
I really liked that Ig was 26 years old. It made his predicament, friends, and family relationships a lot more believable. We begin unsure how to feel about him—is he the good or bad guy? Eventually I feel as though we come to feel a sort of underdog appreciation for him. He’s a decent guy who cares about his family and friends, but the emotional trauma of not only loosing his girlfriend, but being accused of her rape and murder is more than he could handle. For the last year his life has gone to shit, and he hasn’t handled it well.
I think Hill balances Ig’s interest in what’s happening to him with the progression of the story very well. A good chunk of the novel does include flashbacks to Ig and Merrin’s relationship, which provide valuable insight into Ig’s character pre-incident. But once he speaks to his brother, he becomes less concerned about why this is happening to him and what it means. That is slightly frustrating, as it’s never actually explained, but it becomes unimportant behind matters of the heart.
The beginning deals with Ig coming to terms with his new abilities. Eventually, he sees his family and his brother admits to being something of an accessory to Merrin’s murder. This sets Ig off and he begins to use his abilities to root out the true killer and take revenge. As the novel progresses, it moves away from horror and into drama—love, friends, and family—dealing with the human condition.
The novel was released in 2010 and is placed in a genre category between horror-fantasy. Joe Hill is actually a pen name, short for Joseph Hillstrom King. He is the son of Stephen King, so it makes sense his books would be pegged as ‘horror’, and they do deal with some aspects of the genre. However, besides the devil aspect and mature subject matter (rape and murder), I wouldn’t call it a pure horror title, supernatural feels more apt of a category, but the novel does has aspects of crime and drama with a smattering of humour.
I’d like to talk about cover art for a minute. Above is the North American art from HarperCollins. But below is the UK book cover, and then what the movie has been using- what I believe to be a special UK edition with limited print run.
I really dislike the US/Canadian cover (see above). I understand the desire to not use horns, since it’s fairly obvious, but the reference to the devil with a pitchfork seems also overly obvious. The other odd part is the author’s name being above and slightly larger than the book title. Consider next, the UK hardcover (left). It seems overwrought with references, but I like the typeface for the title. They definitely simplified that for the UK paperback (second from left).
Then, (third from the left) we have this special cover with illustration by Vincent Chong and a great fire type treatment. I do like the treatment that the French translation cover (right) got, although the background is a vast expanse of nothingness. I think the UK paperback seems to have picked up a little on the type treatment of the French version, but feels more like the Hunger Games cover. Overall, my favourite is probably the special illustration.