Have you ever wondered what people really thought about you? When stripped of societal niceties, is it possible your friends - and even your family - might not think all of those wonderful things you've been led to believe?
For Ignatius Parish this isn't a nightmare, it's a reality that begins the morning he looks in the mirror and discovers two horns protruding from the top of his head. At first he believes they aren't real, but rather a figment of his alcohol-fuzzied imagination. After all, he's never recovered from the violent death of his girlfriend and despite being cleared of guilt, he knows there are many who still think he killed her.
But he soon learns that not only are the horns real, they give him an eerie power that will help solve the mystery of his beloved's murder. Ig can make people tell him things - even the stuff he isn't prepared to hear.
In Horns, Joe Hill has created a protagonist that will make you feel sympathy for the devil. While the horns themselves could be cheesy, Hill's description is so vivid, and the emotional attachment so well done, I could almost feel them protruding from my own head. For the first couple of nights I went to sleep thinking of Ig - and awoke touching my head with trepidation.
Hill's first book, Heart Shaped Box (HSB) , was a New York Times Bestseller - but I almost didn't pick up Horns. Despite a fabulous first chapter, HSB failed on the follow through for me. I spent much of the book waiting for something to happen, and even though Hill is a great writer, the plot fell short.
No so with Horns. I bought the book after reading the first chapter (I know...but gamble I did), a single paragraph that enticed me to pay for the hard cover. The plot is rich with parallels and subtle messaging and peppered with the kind of creepy gore that would make his Dad proud. (Sidenote: Though Hill is Stephen King's son, he has made it clear he would like to stand on his own writing merit. He does so, and then some.) Not being a fan of snakes in the first place, I was morbidly fascinated by one of the creepiest scenes in the book - picture Ig and more than a hundred poisonous vipers. Even as I think of it now, I shudder.
Hill's love of music is conveyed in this book with often subtle brilliance. One liners, adapted from popular rock lyrics, stand out with comedic grace, making me laugh out loud. You can even pick up some great rock-and-roll trivia if you're paying attention.
Which I was. To everything, including seemingly effortless wordplay.
Although Ig is a little like the protagonist in HSB, Hill distinguishes between each of his other characters but provides a thread of commonality and reveals a little of the devil inside. Every one of us.