did not finish: Horns by Joe Hill (audio)

Horns is a horror novel by Joe Hill, son of the horror novel empire of the world, and author of Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2. So I had high hopes, and indeed was moving along smoothly enough, feeling engaged and interested, until about the halfway point of this audiobook’s 14 hours.

This is the story of Iggy Perrish, who wakes up at the beginning of the book with dim memories of the night before, and horns growing out of his temples. His (apparently perfect) girlfriend was brutally raped and murdered a year prior, and although Ig was never proven guilty or innocent, his community assumes his guilt; this, on top of his loss, has quite ruined his life. When the newly horned Ig encounters anyone at all, they go into a sort of trance of perfect honesty, mindlessly confessing their worst desires and asking his permission to act them out. He’s become sort of everyone’s personal demon. Then the story flashes back to when he first met the late girlfriend, ten years previous, when they were just kids; and occasionally forward, to later in their relationship; and back to the horned present, where adult Ig tries to figure out what to do with his horns and unwanted magical powers, and solve the mystery of his girlfriend’s murder.

This was intriguing, if often awful. It’s a horror novel. And I have a taste for the occasional horror novel, as evidenced by previous Hill and King novels I’ve enjoyed; I certainly have a high tolerance for graphic violence and horrific acts in fiction, as evidenced by the fiction I love by Connelly, Child, James Lee Burke and others. I was okay with Ig’s sad story right up until a scene involving a decapitated snake, bullying, and a nasty nickname. It’s weird what will turn me off. (I’ve noticed before that it’s often cruelty to animals.) But there was a moment, listening to this book, and hearing the bleating of the bullies, when I just really didn’t want to hear any more. So I turned it off.

Fred Berman’s narration was a solid performance, I guess, which is to say often off-putting in the way that this scene was off-putting – as Hill intended? I know that sounds like faint praise. Berman does different voices and accents that I found effective; the effect was not pleasant. I wonder if I would have tolerated this book better on the page.

No accounting for what works for me. I thought I had a stronger stomach for the awful than this! But Hill wins this round? Or loses? As ever, your mileage may vary.


Rating: think I’ll skip this one and leave it at ‘DNF.’

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