Book Review: Horns by Joe Hill

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Whatever Ig Perrish was expecting when he woke up this morning, it wasn’t the two horns that have mysteriously sprouted overnight, but there they are. And no one but him seems at all surprised to see them. Worse, people start telling him things, terrible things—their secret desires, their worst secrets, their buried urges—and asking for his permission, his approval. Ig finds himself inadvertently transforming into the devil, or at least, a devil. So begins Joe Hill’s third novel, Horns, and things only get stranger from there.

Ig Perrish’s life was a mess, even before he started growing horns. It’s been a year since his girlfriend was horribly raped and murdered, and his life has been hell ever since. It doesn’t help that, despite the lack of evidence, everyone seems to think he did it. Everyone. Except his brother, and possibly his new girlfriend. With his newfound powers, Ig slowly begins to unravel the mystery, a journey that will unearth childhood secrets, and take him down many weird paths.

This is a darkly comic novel that weaves together black comedy, a revenge thriller, and a debate about the nature of good and evil. The plot itself is relatively straightforward leading inevitably towards Ig’s fiery confrontation with the real murderer. As a thriller, the novel is workmanlike. The murderer’s identity is revealed about halfway through and does not come as a great surprise. The fun of the novel lies elsewhere. Hill is far more interested in the dark humor and theological questions inherent in his premise. This is a thriller written as a weird nonlinear black comedy. The question of whodunit is less important than why, and how that plays into the larger issues at stake.

With his newfound powers, Ig learns the secret thoughts and desires of his family and neighbors, which are by turn depraved, sickening, sad, and horribly amusing. It turns out that the Ig, widely believed a murderer and a rapist, is the kindest most sensitive character of all, even, or perhaps especially, when adorned with horns, a pitchfork, and a congregation of snakes.

Horns takes the reader on a journey through the depraved and the perverted and with devilish glee, asks the reader to love humanity as much for its depravities as in spite of them. This is not a new idea, but Joe Hill presents it in a wildly inventive, thought-provoking novel, that easily breaks the confines of its genre and deserves to be read and enjoyed by all.

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