A year ago, Ignatius Perrish was a happy nobody: involved in his church, respected by his tiny, New England community, loved by his wealthy family, and adored by his girlfriend Merrin. Now, Ignatius (“Ig”) is a social pariah, pathetically living off the pity of others and shunned by those that loved him for a crime he didn’t commit. When Ig wakes one day to discover he has is growing a pair of devilish horns and has a remarkable power over people’s desires, he begins to seek retribution on those that made his life hell.
Horns was not my first encounter with author Joe Hill; his first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, was a wonderful read and had a meteoric debut. Upon hearing that a film will be released in October this year based on another novel of his starring Daniel Radcliff, I decided to see if Mr. Hill could possibly follow through with a repeat performance.
In short: he certainly did. Horns is a darkly twisted tale, beginning as straight forward as a tongue-in-cheek campfire story and then gradually convulsing into a legend right out of Revelation. Hill has a certain humanity in his style, allowing for the reader to continually cheer on Ig and be deliciously repulsed by him, and by making every detail of small-town life relatable for the reader’s imagination. There are moments where the novel reads like a newspaper clipping or the narration of a home video, and other times where it is similar to a surreal, highly mystical dream. This translates well to the cast characters; each have dark secrets and evil desires that are sold so convincingly that one begins to wonder if their own friends and neighbors are as noxious and petty as the ones in the novel. For example, the dialogues between Ig and his family after he reveals his horns towards the end of the first act are absolutely chilling and leave you wondering dark thoughts yourself. Hill encourages this type of forbidden, yet tempting sacrilege through the blackest of comedy, of which involves pushing a sleeping, hateful old woman down a hill in a wheelchair.
Despite the evil, guilty pleasure of Horns, there are issues with the novel. I felt that there wasn’t a cohesive theme, which made its message hard to interpret. I couldn’t decide if it was a cautionary tale about faith, a sermon on the decay of human morals, a perverted coming-of-age story, or just a simple revenge tale. There is also a disappointing shallowness to some of the characters outside of the main cast that is makes them forgettable and only necessary for the current situation.
Regardless, Horns is a wickedly exciting novel that will surely entertain fans of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, or anyone looking for a little sinful escape.

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