Last week I was given an advance reader copy of Joe Hill’s new book HORNS. I’ve had more than a few folks recommending TWENTIETH CENTURY GHOSTS and HEARTSHAPED BOX to me for a while now. However, as usual the pile is near-ceiling height and my response to even his most impassioned enthusiasts (and there are many) has been, until now, ‘I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it’.
HORNS has changed all that.
Comparisons can be made (I won’t make them) to certain authors, however Hill has a strong voice all his own and if there’s anyone he somewhat reminds me of in popular fiction today it would be Chuck Palahnuik. Not because he writes similar to Mr. Palahniuk – not at all. Perhaps it is simply better said that I think fans of Mr. Palahniuk will like Mr. Hill.
Chuck Palahniuk has his own style – if you’ve read him you know – his prose is based around seductive rhythmic techniques that pull the reader in through the novel in exponential increments. Joe Hill’s stuff is paced pretty much like most of the other fiction you might gather around as his peers. The comparison to Palahniuk comes to play in the way the subject matter is presented. There is a certain stark mundane facet to Hill’s relation of the horror that befalls his characters. The way it goes down there is nothing sensational about Ignatius Perrish’s discovery that he has awoken from a drunken stupor to find a pair of devil-like horns growing out of either side of his head. Nothing still when first his low-rent girlfriend and then everyone else he encounters begins to explain their darkest desires to him as if discussing a widely known approach to making toast – weird things begin to transpire and yet Ig’s world remains fundamentally the same – he still carries the burden of previously being wrongfully blamed for the rape and murder of the love of his life. It is in this quagmire existence of intrepid soullessness that the key players in a near-biblical tale of evil vs. evil transpires.
Horns is fantastic. Really, I’ve been unable to put the thing down, constantly falling asleep with my face in the book due to reading it past the point of nightly exhaustion and then waking up early to burn through a few pages before the day’s engagements and advance my curiosity. There’s not a whole lot to look forward to in the Horror section of a bookstore – there are the staples and a few surprises now and again. Now there’s someone new carrying the torch, and to that Mr. Swearengen and I say Huzzah!
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