Sunday, March 28, 2010

Genre-Defying Joe Hill

Joe Hill's Horns

I have a confession to make: I secretly think people who talk about how bad Stephen King's writing is are being snobby. Another confession: I can be unbearably snobby about books. Final, obvious confession: I can occasionally be a hypocrite.

Stephen King has written some pretty bad novels: Needful Things, Desperation, that awful one about aliens that infest people's intestines and whose title I am too lazy to look up...but the man has also written some amazing books: The Stand and The Shining, for example. It can be argued that Stephen King revolutionized the horror genre. He also seems like a genuinely good guy and never fails to write flattering reviews for new authors.

"Wait a minute," you're thinking; "This Horns book wasn't even written by Stephen King. Why is Elizabeth babbling on about him?" Aha, savvy reader! Stephen King is Joe Hill's father. Joe Hill has decided to follow in his father's literary footsteps, and, in my opinion, both complements and improves upon his father's work.

Hill's first work, 20th Century Ghosts, a collection of short stories, and his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, both debuted to critical acclaim. Horns was similarly lauded and may be Hill's best work yet:

"Hill has emerged as one of America's finest horror writers....That empathy with the Devil — taking a despicable character and slowly bringing us around to his side — is the sort of thing Hill does best. It's also what's missing from so much of the girl-meets-vampire gruel that dominates the genre these days." Time Magazine

Horns is the tale of Iggie Perrish, who wakes up one morning with a terrible hangover and horns sprouting from his temples. He had spent the night before visiting his murdered girlfriend Merrin's memorial and vaguely recollects doing "terrible things," so the horns don't come as much of a surprise. Iggie assumes that they are a hallucination brought on by the year of rage and grief he's experienced after Merrin's brutal death and the blame his small town has mistakenly placed upon him as her murderer. The horns, however, are something else entirely: a conduit to people's innermost and often inappropriate desires...and the key to solving Merrin's murder.

A story of redemption, revenge, love, and a surprising take on what makes a man a devil and a devil a man, Horns is a genre-defying novel not to missed.

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