Joe Hill takes a devilish view of grief and revenge in his book Horns. And it’s a helluva ride! But don’t bother with the movie, since it’s nowhere near as amazing as the book.
Ignatius (Ig) Perrish wakes up just after the first anniversary of his girlfriend Merrin’s brutal murder with small horns growing from his head. He discovers that they have special powers, and Ig decides to use those to solve the murder and clear his name. Simple as those two sentences make the plot seem, believe me, it’s not.
Part of Hill’s complex writing is the layers of meaning with which he infuses everything. For example, I just Googled Ignatius and found that it means “fiery one” and is the root of the word ignite. Well, damn. And then of course Perrish … or perish depending on how you spell it. And I promise that’s just the beginning.
Notwithstanding copious (and I do mean lots!) of literary, pop-culture, and biblical references, Hill’s story sizzles with plot twists and plenty of laughs. It’s horror and mystery, while still having heart. I’m not much of a rereader, but if I did reread this I think it would be even better the second time around.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve lost two important family members in the last two years, but it seems to me that Ig is deep in a complex grieving process for Merrin. Grief makes people feel like something completely other, and makes us do strange things. Practically every character in the book is grieving Merrin’s death. Some are angry, some devastated, some are have twisted perspectives. It’s absolutely how grieving goes. Well, except growing horns in your head.
Hill creates an incredibly inventive plot. It pulls you along like a bicycle riding uncontrollably down a mountain path. Just when you think you’ve figured out the best course, Hill throws a crazy big rock in your way that sends you careening another direction. Even when you reach the bottom of the mountain, your heart is racing and wheels spinning. It’s just that good.