Horns by Joe Hill

When Ignatius (“Ig”) Parrish wakes up, he quickly realises two things:

  1. He can’t remember a great deal of what happened the night before
  2. He has some unusual protuberances on his forehead that can only be described as horns

As he goes about his day, he slowly begins to realise something else – people, be they family, friends or complete strangers, suddenly want to confess their darkest innermost thoughts to him.  And Ig has the power to sway them one way or another.

A year earlier, his girlfriend and childhood sweetheart Merrin was brutally raped and murdered.  Almost everyone, including his family, believe that Ig was responsible, the lack of evidence being the only reason he was never charged.  With his newfound “gift”, Ig begins to seek answers as to what happened that night, intent on avenging her.

The narrative jumps between the current day and the past, letting the reader see how Ig and Merrin met as children, and how they became an item.  And we see what happened on that fateful night when they argued, and he left her stranded.  And the conclusion was heart breaking.

Horns isn’t really a whodunnit as we find out who murdered Merrin relatively early on in the novel – the focus is very much on what Ig intends to do about it.  Despite his actions, Ig is portrayed as a good guy, very much at odds with his devilish appearance, a contrast I found fascinating.  Here, the devil is on the side of justice, although:

if God hates sin and Satan punishes the sinners, aren’t they working the same side of the street?

As you might expect, there are religious undertones to the novel, and some interesting interpretation of scripture:

I guess Satan was the first superhero … In his first adventure, he took the form of a snake to free two prisoners being held naked in a third world jungle prison by an all-powerful megalomaniac.  At the same time, he broadened their diet and introduced them to their own sexuality.

Whilst some people may disapprove of this, I found it quite amusing, and I found Hill’s observations to be clever.

Horns is a brilliantly written novel – dark, yet humorous and intelligent.  I’ll definitely be reading more by this author, and I’m particularly excited about his forthcoming novel The Fireman.

 

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