- Author: Joe Hill
- Publisher: William Marrow (an Imprint of Harper Collins)
- Publication Date: February 6th, 2010
- Pages: 416
Joe Hill’s first novel Horns tells the story of Ig Perrish. Ig is a young man living in rural New Hampshire who’s life has been turned upside down in the wake of his girlfriend Merrin’s death. Merrin was killed in the wake of a nasty breakup between Ig and Merrin and in the year since her death, nearly everyone in town has suspected Ig of murdering her despite a lack of evidence from police. No one seems to truly have Ig’s back in defending his innocence. All his relationships are strained because of Merrin’s unsolved murder.
When we first meet Ig, he has woken up after a long night of drinking with something more than just a typical hangover, he’s grown horns. Initially shocked and horrified, Ig looks for reassurance from his new girlfriend Glenna, his doctor and others to confirm that he indeed did grown horns. What he discovers is that while people notice his horns, they don’t seem to care. In fact, the horns inspire everyone who encounters them to confess their darkest desires to Ig. The horns act as a sort prompt for people to not only tell Ig their secrets, but to ask him for permission to act on their desires.
These new found revelations shock and confuse Ig, particularly when his family members begin telling them how they truly feel about his actions and vent their suspicions about his role in Merrin’s death.
As Ig navigates life with the horns, we are treated to bits and pieces of his past. We learn about his first times meeting his long time best friend Lee (who Ig credits with saving his life from a drowning incident when they were kids), to meeting and starting a long term relationship with Merrin, to how Ig grew up in the shadow of his brother Terry, a now famous show host who lives in L.A. and clearly exemplifies everything his parents know Ig will never be.
Ig finds himself not only coming to terms with the realities of his past, but through his new found features, he discovers that those he thought he knew best have secrets that even Ig’s horns can’t uncover. Once Ig finds a way to become comfortable with his new found features and the powers they bring (along with some other physical changes), Ig is determined to not only bring to light Merrin’s true killer, but to avenge her death and finally make peace with his past.
Horns is an interesting exploration of love, lust, fear and desire. Using notable imagery and religious connotations, Hill does a wonderful job of weaving together a story that is both heartbreaking and terrifying. In Horns, we learn that the devil is not always as evil as we may think. We learn that sometimes, the truly evil ones are those who appear to be the most angelic and Godly of people.
While Ig’s story carefully balances the mystical reality of his horns, the fears Ig has about losing the one real love of his life and the terrible implications of what it is like when everyone you meet will stop at nothing to share their darkest thoughts, Ig shows us that at is at his core, his fears and desires and needs are as basic as everyone else’s. Ig’s experiences remind me of one of my favorite Gandhi quotes, which reads “The only devils in the world are those running n our own hearts; that is where the battle should be fought.”
While Horns gives us a healthy does of philosophy to consider, there is a genuine vein of horror that runs throughout the book. Ig’s fear of living with the horns as a curse, the weight of knowing other’s most vile and sadistic thoughts and the clear disgust that most everyone holds toward Ig are astounding. Yet, all of these things are secondary to the true evil of the story — that people would rather pin an easy target than actually seek justice. That with the right demeanor, connections and careful planning, a sociopath can walk the streets with ease.
While our ties to social media can be cathartic and uplifting in times of trouble, Horns is a stark reminder that people are happy to overlook a true criminal (who may be sitting in plain sight) because they are happier making assumptions and labeling someone as an outcast simply because it’s convenient.
Horns asks us to consider what is more important, creating a criminal so that we can give ourselves an illusion of safety and satisfaction over “quickly” apprehending the so-called “devil”, or taking the time to truly investigate a scenario before casting the blame. While Horns is not set in our immediate reality, it forces us to consider what evil lies within our hot-tempered, judgmental nature that seems to be constantly fueled by our obsession with social media.
Horns was recently adapted into a film featuring Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter). Horns the film was released in theaters in October 2014 and recently was released on DVD. Check back soon for our coverage of the Film adaptation of Horns.