Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review and Movie Tie-in: Horns by Joe Hill

Title: Horns
Author: Joe Hill (Joseph King)
Publication Date: March 1, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 368
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Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge. . . . It's time the devil had his due. . . .

A couple of weeks ago I was minding my own business, watching The Next Great Baker, when a trailer for a new movie popped up on my Facebook feed. Harry Potter's face was there, so I obviously watched it. I was in awe of this trailer. The film looked like it would be completely amazing, so I decided to share it with my friends. That was when I was told that it was based on a book and that the book was (apparently) epic.

I went into Horns with very high expectations after seeing such an awesome trailer and hearing such great reviews for the source material. The story is about Ig, a guy who has been dealt a really crappy card (i.e. his girlfriend, Merrin, was murdered and everyone thinks he did it) and wakes up one morning with horns on his head. Shenanigans ensue. I was completely captivated by the first fourth of this book. Then, very suddenly, the true murderer is revealed and the book completely switches gears.

The next half of the book is a series of long and drawn out (um, hello, it's half the book) unnecessary flashbacks. The book literally jumps back to Ig as a fifteen year old and the reader is taken through his teen years with Merrin, how they met, fell in love, etc. Ig's best friend, Lee, is also put under the microscope and we learn all about his childhood including, but not limited to, the tom cat that used to meow from his back yard. It was about this time when I found out that Joe Hill was, in fact, the son of Stephen King. It was about this time when everything started to make sense.

This is a Stephen King book written by another hand. Everything about this book screams King. Don't get me wrong - I love some of Stephen King's books. That being said, he has a way of dragging things out to a ridiculous point and including tons of minute details like which way the grass was blowing at this time or that. While it came in at only 368 pages, Horns took me 10 days to read and I actually listened to the last several chapters on audiobook on a four hour drive. Otherwise it would have taken longer. But I digress...

Apart from learning about the childhood of each character, the flashback portions of the book detail the murder of Merrin and all the events leading up to it from multiple points of view. While I understand that all of these flashbacks were supposed to relay relevant information that could only be portrayed by the person who'd experienced it, it could have been done in a different, less grueling way.

Finally, the ending. I had a few problems with the ending. The first is that it's far too neat and tidy. I guess the surprise at the end was supposed to be sweet and gratifying, but it just seemed ridiculous (which is saying a lot considering the book's premise). The other issue is that there were unanswered questions. For example, what the heck was the point of the horns? So he "needed" them? Why? I would assume that a bad person would end up turning into a devil - not someone who was completely innocent. And what was the actual point of the treehouse? It truly just seemed like a lot of randomness thrown onto the pages and attempting to make some deep, philosophical point.

I didn't completely hate Horns. I enjoyed the first little bit and really any part that dealt with present-day Ig and his horn problem. Overall, though, this book was just a "meh" book. Nothing special. I'll still see the movie, for sure, because I feel like it just has to be better. There's no way they can replay the same thing three times in the movie. Everyone would hate it!