I read Joe Hill’s first book, Heart-Shaped Box, on the plane back from Chicago the summer after my sophomore year of college.  I was half in afterglow, half teary from parting – and not at all looking forward to getting back to work.  I had finished the books I’d brought with me and needed something, so I picked this up at the airport kiosk.  I’d heard good things, it looked pretty interesting…

Turns out Mr. Hill is Stephen King’s son and I was in for quite a spooky ride.  I don’t think the book is as horrifying as many people seem to rank it (I’ve heard many people say it’s the scariest book they’ve ever read) but it was pretty damn scary.   It was a little rough around the edges – but it was a good read.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When Horns first came out, I wasn’t dying to read it.  Something about the concept just seemed… weak.  So I left it on my “when it’s out in paperback” shelf – but when the Biblioracle speaks, one must get that book and read it next.  And so, a few days before Halloween, Mr. Warner spake and bid me read this book next.  And I’m damn glad he did (as always, it seems).

The book is far more mature than Hill’s first and it deals with a realm that his dad never really gets into.  It was uniquely youthful, definitely “of our age” – but it also had that timeless feeling that the greatest stories carry.  I felt for Ig throughout the entire novel – even as he was doing horrible things (and let’s be real: he’s not the best guy, even if his intentions are good), I cared about him.  I felt sorrow at Merrin’s death – and I felt the shock and sadness and betrayal that comes from her late revelation to Ig.  The triangle between Ig and Lee and Merrin was handled so well and with such ambiguity that I was kept guessing (a feat, not to toot my own horn) until the very end as to what actually happened.

Most importantly, I think, our author never makes a statement on Ig’s horns.  He makes a statement about the Devil, sure – a great one and one that I’ve always believed (much to the dismay of most of my very religious friends)… but he never explains the magic that brings them about.  It just is.  I mean, there’s a great story about how they come about but you never once feel the need to say “wait, that makes no sense; why?”  It is and it is wonderful.

I liked the light biblical parallels that come to play, just in the way that they aren’t religious but they have religious ties that add weight to them for the characters.  If that makes any sense.

I think I was most fascinated by how the story never sagged.  Just when it seemed like the conceit would get stale (because it certainly could, very quickly), something happens that changes the tone and we’re off!  Wonderful.  Mr. Hill has (and I mean this as the highest compliment) his father’s sense of how to engage the reader for the whole damn novel.

The end is the right note of bittersweet – and the image that Terry half-remembers from his hospitalization… well, I love that image.  I’ll keep that in my head forever.

Rating: 5 out of 5.  This was an excellent book – one that surprised me, considering that I’d been less than enthused by the premise, despite the pedigree.  The Biblioracle came through once again and this – our first book of Year Two – was a great way to get things going again.  So thanks, Mr. Warner – and we (meaning me, at Raging Biblioholism) will continue to bring you reviews of books and such.  Enjoy and happy reading, friends!


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