Review: Horns by Joe Hill


One morning Ignatius Perrish woke up in his flat, completely hung over after an all-night bender, and found a nice pair of small horns growing on both sides his forehead. Just like that.

Ig wasn’t the worst or the most depraved man on Earth or even in America, far from it. It’s true, people suspected that he’d raped and murdered his ex-girlfriend, Merrin Williams, but nobody has proven anything and Iggy, promptly released from jail due to lack of evidence, claimed he was innocent. Still the horns were growing on his head for a purpose, right? They had to mean something?

Soon after that dreadful discovery Ig found out that the new addition to his head influenced others – the horns made men and women reveal shamelessly their deepest yearnings and secrets as if Ig was their trusted shrink or at least a confessor. Ig could also influence their actions, whispering things they wanted to hear and follow through. Still nobody remembered talking to a horned guy afterwards – quite handy, don’t you think?

With those new tools he started looking for the real murderer of Merrin because it had to be a local. Was it Eric Hannity, an ex-cop? Iggy’s best friend, Lee Tourneau? Or maybe his older brother, Terry?

My impressions:

It was an original book, funny, quirky, full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. The narration jumped a bit forward and backward in the second part but it was forgivable. The plot was deceptively easy: Ig was trying to solve the old mystery surrounding the untimely death of his beloved Merrin because, even though she was raped and murdered, nobody has been caught or charged with anything. Meanwhile he tried to deal with his super-powers, embodied by those horns, use them to his advantage even though he suspected he was becoming a kind of a demon. His quest was soon transforming into almost an epic journey, what with people around him revealing their deepest secrets and the darkest desires. Only snakes and other animals remained truly  innocent, doing just what their natural instincts make them do.

Anyway in some places this thriller was almost philosophical, dealing with such dangerously difficult topics as what is the role of religion in our lives, what makes us good or bad and what it means to be evil. Not accidentally, I suppose, the main baddie was a budding politician and, ostensibly, a deeply religious man, one of those ‘born-again’ Christians who had sinned but then saw the evil of their ways.

The main hero, Ig, was as three-dimensional as you could only wish. Nobody would call him a good man; nobody would call him rotten to the core either. He hovered somewhere in-between, a man full of vices but also a man yearning for justice and missing the love of his life who had to die prematurely.

Of course the book wasn’t perfect. I wish Joe Hill included at least one strong female character as three-dimensional as Ig. I wish he explained this and that a bit – like, for example, why one crucifix was able to counteract the super-powers of horns and the other wasn’t. Or why Ig was chosen at all out of all more or less bad men inhabitting his town and who or what exactly chose him. Still these are questions which came to my mind only later, when I became less dazzled by the whole story.

Final verdict:

A great, intelligent thriller – something for a reader who likes transcendental musings with their crime mystery. No rubbery monsters crawling from under your bed, no bloodbath and yet it was scary. I recommend it wholeheartedly; still I am not sure whether it is a good movie material. I fear the subtler messages will be lost in action.

Oh and let me also add how much I appreciate the fact that Joe uses an alias to avoid cashing in on the family name even if the secret is out (his dad is Stephen King).

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7 Responses to Review: Horns by Joe Hill

  1. heidenkind says:

    This is the same author who wrote NOS4A2? For some reason the summary of this book ermines me of the graphic novel Constantine.

  2. blodeuedd says:

    I had actually planned to watch the movie, but then the book landed in my lap so I read it instead and yes now, dunno how the movie would work as well

  3. rameau says:

    Oh, lovely. A woman in the fridge syndrome. That is going to get me read a book, not.

    I know you love these thrillers and his writing, but I can’t even think of giving his work another chance. Not after I DNFed NOS4A2.

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