by Sherry Lipp
Horns is now a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple. It is in theaters now in limited release. We’ll post a review of the movie shortly. The movie tie-in paperback edition is available from Harper-Collins.
One morning Ignatius Perrish awakens to find a pair of horns growing out of his skull. He can’t quite remember what happened the night before, but it’s not likely anything would explain his sudden metamorphosis. Not only do the horns change Ig’s appearance, but they possess the power to make everyone Ig encounters confess their deepest, darkest secrets. Joe Hill’s novel Horns asks us to question our perception of good and evil and presents a pretty cool murder mystery wrapped in supernatural thriller.
If you haven’t read Horns yet, you should probably stop reading this and get to it. If you have read it, please read on.
They say that first impressions are everything, but that is not so in Horns. In fact, nearly every character in this novel is not what they seem when we first meet them. Let’s take our protagonist, Ig Perrish, for example. When we first meet Ig, he has just awoken, hung over from a night he can’t quite remember. What we do know is that he drank with reckless abandon, desecrated the memorial of his dead girlfriend, and he now lives with a woman he does not love. We don’t have a lot of reason to like him.
But as we dig in deeper, and get to know Ig a little better, we find out he’s a pretty good guy. He loves his girlfriend – the only one he has ever had, likes to help out his friend Lee, and to top it all off he was going to work for Amnesty International because he wanted to do good in the world. So why has he just sprouted a pair of horns? Is it just his true inner demon coming out? Or is the manifestation of what the people in his town think he already is – a rapist and murderer.
Lee on the other hand is everything we perceive the Devil to be. A trickster who appears good on the surface, but deep down he his duplicitous, manipulative, and downright sadistic. So why does Ig get the horns and not Lee? I guess it all depends on your perception of the Devil. Is he the root of all evil or is he a bystander who observes us destroying ourselves? Perhaps he just waiting to take those who do wrong to their eternal punishment, like the character in The Rolling Stones song “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Hill provides no shortage of devilish references throughout his novel. Some are explicit – one section is even titled “The Gospel According to Mick and Keith” – and some you might have to think about, which is half the fun. As the story reveals each layer, it both reveals and deepens the mystery. The darkly humorous sections where those who encounter Ig suddenly unburden themselves of their deep, dark secrets make you wonder about those who judge others based only on a brief glimpse. They have done more wrong than Ig, yet they cast him as an evil entity from whom they want to be rid.
Horns works great as a supernatural whodunit, but it also gives you a lot more to chew on. I found the characters, particularly Ig and Lee, to be fascinating and loved that I was constantly kept guessing about what was going to be revealed about them next. In turn, Horns just might reveal a little bit about our own self-perception and our constant struggle over what is right and what is wrong.