Horn by Peter M. Ball
Paperback • 96pp • RRP AUS$12
Cover art by Dion Hamill
Published June 2009
Shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel and Best Horror Novel, Aurealis Awards 2009
Locus Recommended Reading List, 2010
Honorable Mention, Year’s Best Horror 2, Ellen Datlow
There’s a dead girl in a dumpster and a unicorn on the loose – and no-one knows how bad that combination can get better than Miriam Aster. What starts as a consulting job for city homicide quickly becomes a tangled knot of unexpected questions, and working out the link between the dead girl and the unicorn will draw Aster back into the world of the exiled fey she thought she’d left behind ten years ago. All in all, Miriam Aster isn’t happy. The last time she worked a case like this it cost her a badge, a partner, and her life.
This time things are going to get much, much worse.
Dead girls and unicorns? How warped can this get?
I was continually impressed by Ball’s economy of expression, blending of genres, and his ability (in the close quarters of a novella) to not just layer in information about the characters but also about character motivation. The ambition in Horn may exist mostly at the level of scene and character without too much additional complexity of plot or situation, and it may veer toward the sensationalistic once or twice, but overall the book is a promising, strong debut by a new Australian author. I’ll be interested to see what Ball can do with a deeper concept and a wider canvas.
Jeff Vandermeer, Ecstatic Days
Horn is a perfectly delightful book about a private eye named Miriam Aster tracking down a fairly nasty murderer… or it would be, if Aster wasn’t the reanimated lover of an exiled Faerie Queen, and the murderer wasn’t a sex-crazed unicorn starring in a particularly repugnant snuff movie with an underaged runaway.
There. I said it. The book involves unicorns, rape, snuff movies, and more or less undead lesbian detectives.
Peter M. Ball has got it right. This book is smart, funny, nasty, and wicked as hell. He gets the noir-ish tone spot on, delivers with action a-plenty, kick-ass characters, intelligent plotting, and good, clean evocative writing. Best of all, he takes a turgidly overused fantasy trope out behind the backyard toilet and puts a dum-dum bullet through its brain, after which he whips out his tackle and pisses all over the steaming corpse.
Dirk Flinthart, Cool Shite
Certainly the best Australian speculative story of 2009
David Conyers, Albedo One
Peter demonstrates a solid grasp of the detective and fantasy tropes
Keith Stevenson, Aurealis
But be prepared, this ain’t your little sisters ( unless you have a rather odd family) book about faeries and unicorns. This is a hard boiled detective novel, dark and probably a little confronting for some. …
It’s possibly the best paranormal fiction I have read all year, possibly ever. It will be confronting, it will take some of you close to edge. But I think Ball crafts a delightfully dark little tale, revealing a more honest portrayal of the Fae, the sex, lust and double edged devious nature.