“Maybe all the schemes of the devil were nothing compared to what man could think up.”
One of my top books of 2013 was Horns, by Joe Hill, and as such I thought it should make it onto my Recommended Reads page so I can explain why. Horns is the story of Ig Perrish, who, after getting very drunk on the first anniversary of his girlfriend’s rape and murder, wakes up to find horns have begun to sprout from his head. It transpires that the horns give Ig certain diabolical powers – namely, the people around him suddenly feel the need to spill their darkest secrets, and Ig can compel them, if he wishes, to give in to the ugly urges they may have. Though horrified by this turn of events, Ig begins to use his powers to discover the identity of his girlfriend Merrin’s killer, as he has always been assumed guilty, though innocent, and never charged.
Although I am recommending this book, I have to admit, I don’t think it’s for everyone. I liked the premise, and the writing style, and I generally enjoy things that are a bit off the wall and unpredictable. Not everybody does. But as the story progresses, the focus shifts away from Ig and his horns and looks back, to Ig’s childhood, his relationship with his brother Terry and his friend Lee, his meeting of Merrin and what happened between them on the night she was killed. It is part fantasy, part horror, part crime, part comedy, and part love story. Ig’s fall from a high social position in his family and his community after the assumption that he got away with murder is quite crushing – asking the ultimate question of why do bad things happen to good people? The way Hill describes the actions of the evil character that is Merrin’s real killer is particularly chilling.
This isn’t just a wacky tale written for shock value – though there are quite a few shocking moments. The religious symbolism adds weight to the premise (without it sounding like a sermon in disguise – far from it), and the heartache felt by Ig and Merrin’s father at her death is just as sad as the disappointment felt by Ig’s mother, living with the belief that her son is probably a murderer but she has to pretend she thinks he’s innocent. Ig’s love for Merrin is at the heart of this story – he’s a good guy with a bad problem that he doesn’t seem to be able to solve, but who learns to use it to his advantage in (mostly) acceptable ways in his quest to uncover the truth. As I said, this book might not be for everyone, but don’t pass it by thinking it will be nothing more than horrible scenes written without any substance – it is so much more.
“There’s only room for one hero in this story-and everyone knows the devil doesn’t get to be the good guy.”