Book Review: Horns by Joe Hill

I first heard about this book because they’re making a movie of it featuring Daniel Radcliffe, and it seemed like an interesting premise, so I thought I’d check it out.


The book follows Ignatius “Ig” Perrish, who’s having a pretty tough time of it, and not just because his parents gave him a terrible first name. Around a year ago Ig’s girlfriend, Merrin, was savagely murdered, and Ig became the prime suspect, due to them having been seen arguing shortly before. Ig’s life has fallen apart, there’s very little proof against him, but nothing to exonerate him either. His career prospects have stalled and he’s become alienated from almost everyone.

With the anniversary approaching Ig got drunk and visited the crime scene, and wakes up the following day hungover and with two horns protruding from his head. Reeling, Ig slowly comes to realize that something happened the previous night that he can’t quite remember and that his new horns give him uncomfortable powers. People confess their darkest desires to him, seeking his approval and encouragement, and skin-to-skin contact allows him to see all their past sins.

Struggling to work out what’s happened to him and forced to hear and see revelations from everyone he knows Ig is lost, until he realizes that he can use them to get revenge for Merrin’s death. But can he really bring down the killer, and what horrible things must he discover along the way?

Man, this is a trippy book.

It’s bleak as all hell, with Ig’s powers meaning that everybody spills their guts to him and it seems that his entire hometown of Gideon is filled with douchebags and deviants. It’s one of those books where the world view is so grim and alien to my own that there were times when I was tempted to just set it down and move on to something else. I mean, come on, Hill, not everyone has to be an odious dick. I know the characters are voicing their deep dark desires and sins, but man it’s depressing.

What kept me reading was that it is an engaging book. Ig is a strangely sympathetic protagonist, despite being a bit of a dick himself at times and somewhat pretentious. I wanted him to get revenge and I wanted to know how he came to get horns.

Hill is a skilled writer, his prose is loaded with vivid description and jet black humour, and as the novel jumps around manages to capture the character’s outlooks well. There’s the embittered and defeated Ig of the present along with the more naive, lovestruck version of the flashbacks and it also let’s us see into the mind of the novel’s villain, a cold psychopath who’s view of the world is distorted and hampered by his inability to understand normal emotions.

It’s a bit clever-clever at times and there tons of allusions that flew over my head and probably more that I didn’t even register, and some of the symbolism is a bit heavy handed. The ending manages to give you closure and even a rare glimmer of hope, but a lot is left unanswered and I found it a bit of a let down.

Still, be interesting to see how Daniel Radcliffe handles such dark and twisted fare.

Radcliffe as Ig

Radcliffe as Ig

Verdict: Quite gripping and keeps you hooked, but some of it is unsatisfying and I found it a little bit to grim for my liking. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


One Comment on “Book Review: Horns by Joe Hill”

  1. Couldn’t finish this one. I liked the beginning, but after that it got too repetitive.

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