Friday Flashback is hosted by Jen from The Introverted Reader.
This review was originally written on April 3, 2010.
Remember, way back at the beginning of the year, when I said that I wanted to hump Hugh Laurie's leg for writing The Gun Seller? After reading Horns, and just the ARC - not even the finished, shiny and perfect masterpiece - I want to hump Joe Hill's leg for writing it.
Not too long ago, I read Hill's short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, and in the intro, Christopher Golden says that Hill is subtle writer, that his stories are "promises fulfilled". I think that Golden's words about Joe Hill are even more apt when it comes to Horns. This is Joe Hill fulfilling his promise to readers. Horns is his promise to the world that he can keep pulling new and amazing tricks out of his bag, and each one will be better than the last.
I'm sad that I'm finished, that it's over. I feel like I should just flip back to the beginning and read it again, because I know, without a doubt, that it will be even more brilliant the 2nd time around.
Joe Hill's subtlety and brilliance is much more in evidence and has more effect in this book than any of his other books I've read. I don't even know how to gush enough to do justice to what I want to say! I feel like with every line that I read, there was another line behind it that added to the depth of the one I'd just read. The way that he wrote Lee was amazing. Seeing things through his eyes was truly scary and disturbing. (I don't want to give too much away about his character, but I will say this, I think that Joe Hill wrote Lee Tourneau better than his father, Stephen King, wrote Junior Rennie.) When Ig sermonizes to the snakes, I was proud of him in that moment. Not simply for finally realizing that the snakes were his, but for his understanding of truth, and life, and love in that moment, and for accepting Merrin's decision that last night as being her right, even though it destroyed him. I feel like Joe Hill wrote these things, but then I also feel like he didn't write them, that he doesn't have to write them because they just seep out of the pages and into me. Merrin's letter is another one of those 'between the lines' bits. My heart hurt reading her letter to Ig, I felt like I was losing something myself, and I hurt for them. I definitely had some sympathy for the devil at that moment.
Which brings me to my next couple of points. I love how music works its way into Hill's writing and stories, and the depth that it gives them. It's not just there for set dressing or for a pop culture stamp to place the story into a familiar territory for the reader, one gets the feeling that not only is music important to Hill, but that it is vital to him. I feel like he was speaking through Ig when he was appalled at Lee's lack of music appreciation, his plain statement that music is simply the background noise to events or action. Music is something that some people live and breathe, and I feel like Joe is one of those people, and because he is, so was Ig.
I also loved the devilish humor inserted throughout the story. I love when a book can take me from one extreme to another, and this was no exception. I went from confusion, to shock, to laughter, to tears, to laughter, to more tears, etc. Every page brought some new revelation, and to me, Hill's timing with the humor and the heartache were spot on.
I further loved the full picture of Merrin we got, even though we never got to really meet her. We got a composite of her from various other sources, like a police sketch artist making a picture from one person describing the nose, another describing the shape of the eyes, another giving us the hair, or the mouth, or the jawline, etc. Merrin's loss hit me like a ton of bricks, even though I knew about it from the beginning. But it still hurt, because I came to love her the way that Ig did - even though there was a brief time that I disliked her when I saw her through Lee's eyes. Even though I knew it was hopeless, I still wanted to hope that something would happen to magically reverse what actually DID happen. That was wishful thinking, but what I'm saying is that Joe Hill made me feel that way, despite knowing what I knew about the impossibility of that.
I both loved and hated the way that people would spill their deepest and darkest thoughts to Ig, and I really felt for him having to endure the awful things that people thought about him. I couldn't imagine hearing those kinds of things from the people I love, and the people who are supposed to love me. Everyone claims to want the truth about how people feel about us, but I think that the plain, unvarnished truth is awful and unbearable. In my head, I can hear Jack Nicholson yelling, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" and it's true. I would have probably just crawled in a hole somewhere if people had said to me what they said to Ig. So, kudos to him for being stronger than I am.
I think that's enough gushing... There's a lot more that I wrote down to mention, but I think you all get the point now, don't you?
If you haven't already, read this book. Discover the greatness that is Joe Hill. I'm waiting! :)