Horns by Joe Hill
Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician, the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star. Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
The beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – and Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, he was and always would be guilty.
Now Ig is possessed of horns, and a terrible new power – he can hear people’s deepest, darkest secrets – to go with his horrible new look. He means to use it to find whoever killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.
I think that Joe Hill has managed to tap into a genuine primal fear with this novel. What if you could read their minds with a single touch? Now part of you might be thinking, ‘this would be great’. But I’m going to have to disagree. Could there be anything worse than knowing exactly what the people around you think of you? I am sure the reality would be a lot like the situation depicted in Horns. You would immediately start to learn things that you just didn’t ever want to know. I don’t think it would take long to discover that underneath the thin veneer of society a lot of individuals are way freakier than they appear on the surface. Ig Perrish learns this the hard way as he descends into his own private hell. The good news is that the reader gets to follow him, every step of the way.
I should stress that it’s not all doom and gloom though. There is some welcome dark humour particularly when Ig tries to master his new powers. He takes some amusing, if slightly petty, revenge against those that have slighted him in the past. I couldn’t help but feel that all the various characters got exactly what they deserved in this regard. Almost without exception, everyone wants to see Ig just disappear, so it seems only fair that they get what is coming to them.
This is the first novel by Joe Hill that I have read and I was heartily impressed. The main protagonist is placed in a terrible situation and I was compelled to follow his journey. The novel is very dark but also surprisingly life affirming. There are some flashbacks that cover Ig’s first meeting with Merrin and the beginning of their relationship. These add additional depth to the characters and made it easy to empathise with Ig’s predicament.
At the novel’s core this is a story about understanding the key components of relationships. The relationships between Ig and Merrin, Ig and his family, and Ig and his friend Lee are all examined as Ig is forced to confront the ugly truths in his life. Horns is an intimate story that provides fresh insight into the nature of love, longing, jealousy and revenge.
If you like the idea of giving Mr Hill’s work a try you could do a lot worse than start here. On the strength of Horns I now look forward to picking up his other novels.
Phew! I managed to get through this entire review without mentioning Stephen King once…..oh damn.