Believe it or not, I actually manage to devote headspace to things OTHER than Lost on a weekly basis. Each weekend, join me for "Lost: The Detox," where I'll talk about some of the other media I've enjoyed or been annoyed by. This week: My first mixed review.
Joe Hill's "Horns" - a brief review.
Joe Hill is a gifted writer. Capable of deftly etching interesting characters, constructing a compelling plot, and turning a nicely evocative phrase, Hill is an exciting talent in the world of fiction. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started his new novel, "Horns," but I quickly fell into the mystery of Ignatius Perrish and the devilish horns that appear on his forehead, seemingly conjured in the middle of the night.
Halfway through this ambitious book, however, the initial thrill of Hill's plotting and prose gave way to something approaching disappointment. The deeper I got, the more the world of Horns seemed to shrink. From a truly intriguing premise, something relatively pedestrian emerged.
None of which is to say that Hill's written a bad novel. It's simply a novel that doesn't know what it wants to be. Hill succeeds in preparing you for a gourmet meal, but ulimately fumbles in the final presentation.
It seems to me that a novel which attempts in part to explore the nature of evil, the role of satan in the world, and the hidden (awful) depths of the human heart ought to feel a lot less safe than Horns ultimately does. The book opens with the idea that it's main character has done something 'terrible' he can't remember, and that this terrible "something" led to his horns. But that something, when finally revealed, isn't much of a something after all. And that same sensation of things being less interesting, less complex, and ultimately too unexplained permeates enough of the novel that i don't think I'd recommend it.
While I appreciated Hill's characterizations overall, the friendship between Perrish and Lee never reads as believable, and ultimately, some of Hill's larger concepts (I'm looking at you, 'Treehouse of the mind') feel like the sort of hyper-important-yet-unsatisfactorily explained deux ex machina devices that Hill's father, Stephen King, so often falls prey to.
The novel that Horns ends up being fairly comparable to, in a number or ways, is "Lisey's Story," by King. There's the same sort of admirably and movingly rendered portrait of loss, the same intriguing but totally unexplained sense of magic (re "Lisey's Story": What the heck was up with the brother who sort of maybe turns into a werewolf or demon or maybe doesn't, but is all feral and touches himself and they keep him in the basement or something - which you don't typically do unless the kid is actually a monster but King never tells us which is sort of cool but also ultimately kind of frustrating and ends up making things feel incomplete and not purposefully vague and which is maybe what both writers were attempting with this stuff, but it doesn't really satisfy), and the same sense that in the end, things turned out smaller and less interesting than they'd seemed when the book was opened.
Kind of like this review, really.