Horns by Joe Hill

Originally posted 2015-11-11 12:00:16.

Originally posted on www.danetrain.com  on October 11, 2014

Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. Apparently, he vaguely attempted to conceal this fact by disguising his last name, but one look at his author photo immediately reveals the truth: the man looks just like his father. When I learned that King had a son who wrote in the same genre as his father, my curiosity got the better of me. I devoured Hill’s debut novel, Heart Shaped Box, in two days flat I absolutely loved it. So, of course, I bought Horns the day it came out way back in 2011. I recently revisited it upon learning that it is being made into a film, and my reaction has not changed: equally humorous and heartfelt, Horns is one hell of a ride. Haha, see what I did there? Damn, I’m witty.

In the very recent past, Ignatius Perrish had it all: a hot girlfriend, a promising career path, and loyal friends and family. Less than a year later, Ig has none of these things, but he does suddenly have a shiny new pair of horns sticking out of his head. Not only that, but people are confiding in him their deepest, darkest impulses. Evil impulses. And when he touches people, he knows all of their dirty little secrets. Armed with these new abilities, Ig sets out to find out who murdered his girlfriend (a crime that his entire town assumes he is guilty of), and along the way he progressively takes on more attributes of Hell’s chief resident.

One of the most interesting things about Horns is the way that Hill jumps right into it. We don’t get any backstory, we just get that Ig wakes up with a hangover and some horns. Behold the opening lines:

Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances. He was so ill – wet eyed and weak – he didn’t think anything of it at first, was too hungover for thinking or worry.

It’s just so matter-of-fact: Hill forces readers to suspend disbelief by giving us no other option. Moreover, he certainly takes after his daddy when it comes to jabs against organized religion. “Ignatius” seems to be a take on St. Ignatius Loyola – while Loyola became motivated by God to do good, Ig experiences an exact inversion of that conversion. Yeah, I rhymed that. Furthermore, the misspelling of “Parish” in Ig’s last name seems to be a deliberate move, as Ig’s new motives are completely antithetical to any proper parish. Then there’s “perish” the verb, which means  to “suffer death, typically in a violent, sudden, or untimely way,” so says Google. The wordplay has potential, but I could just be reading way too much into it. Regardless, Hill is quite the writer, and I’m not just saying that because of nepotism. Paradise Lost is one of the greatest things ever written by anyone, and the most awesome thing about it is that John Milton makes us sympathize with the devil. Hill does the same thing, just in a postlapsirian world. I look forward to seeing D-Rad’s take on Ig and his fiery adventures.