Recommended Ages 18+*
Horns is devilish good fun, and yes, I’m well aware of how obvious that pun is. But truly, this book is one crafty piece of literature that offers a study in romance, religion, and relationships that is anything but typical.
Ig is a pretty normal guy until the love of his life since they were kids turns up dead and everyone suspects him of murdering her. But with no proof to convict or clear him, Ig suddenly wakes up one day to find horns growing out of his head, horns that allow him to compel the wildest truths out of people and even make them act to his will at times. It’s eery and really cool, but mostly it’s just weird.
Actually, weird doesn’t really begin to cover the half of the this book, but it’s the best word I have for it. Ig has what feels like a normal relationship with his friends and family before the murder of his girlfriend Merrin, but once the horns start to grow, the truths that come out of seemingly normal people are wild and escalate quickly. It’s shocking what the people in his life really think of one another and the lengths they go to to hide these truths in reality. If anything, this book will entertain you with its flamboyant revelations, but if you’re really looking close enough, you’ll see a deep analysis of what human relationships are as Ig questions the limits of what he can accept in the people closest to him. At its heart, I believe this book is a simple study in people.
But the biggest debate that rages across the pages of this novel is that of religion. Ig’s fall away from faith after Merrin’s death is what (apparently) gives him his magical horns that plunge him into what he considers a kind of hellish, devil life. It’s easy to see that religion is a damned thing early on in this story, but Merrin remains until the end a symbol of hope and salvation that Ig can never really stop clinging too and that’s what got me. It’s a book about the space that exists between good and evil, the space where we’re free to examine our inner most self and decide if we’re held purely by good or purely by evil, or if both can ever co-exist within. You won’t cease to ponder the religious complexities of life if you pick this book up, that’s for sure.
And through it all, Ig’s ardent love of Merrin is heartbreaking. It’s the heart of this story that beats all the way to the final pages. At a sharp contrast is that of the murder mystery. Though author Joe Hill is quick to point out that this tale isn’t necessarily as much a who-done-it? as it is a book about human truths, you find out fairly early on who Merrin’s killer is and once you do, the revelations about said killer are revolting and downright twisted. It’s creepy, perhaps a bit too creepy for my tastes, but regardless of the ick factor involved, the dueling perspectives and the lack of mystery were a jarring turn for me that interrupted the story’s narrative a tad too much.
Horns is not for everyone. It’s hardly for a lot of people if I’m being quite honest. But the one thing I liked about this book over everything was that it made me think for a long time afterwards about how life works and how people decide where their loyalties lie. Be prepared for religious criticisms, but be prepared also for religious reprieve. And above all, enjoy the bizarre circus that is this book.
*Please note that this book contains graphic and at times, disturbing images as well as some sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.
**Joe Hill’s Horns will be adapted into a film of the same name directed by Alexandre Aja and starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple. The film is set to be released Halloween day, October 31, 2014 in the US, and on October 29, 2014 in the UK. Read the book, then check out some posters and the trailer for the movie here and let us know how you think the film will stack up compared to its book counterpart!