Horns by Joe Hill

Horns by Joe Hill

I first heard about this book last year when I read it was being adapted for film (photo above showing the main character portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe). The novel’s premise seemed right up my alley. It is a blend of the fantastic, horror, absurd, and revenge, which novelist Joe Hill pulls off so very, very well.

Ig Perrish wakes up after a night of drunken debauchery to find that horns have sprouted out of his head. While still in the fog from the night before, the reality of these horns can, of course, be questioned because “it wouldn’t be the first time he’d confused fantasy with reality, and he knew from experience that he was especially prone to unlikely religious delusions.” However, Ig and the reader soon realize that his world is no longer normal. Are the people he encounters seeing the horns or are they oddly invisible to others? Everyone starts to tell Ig the unfiltered truth, even divulging deep, dark secrets and feelings.

But what is said to Ig while he is adorned with these new horns is usually filled with disgust and vitriol, because the year before, he was accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend, Merrin. The power of the horns are even more useful as Ig tries to uncover what really happened to her.

The novel is filled with dark premises and reprehensible secrets, but Hill’s writing takes the despicable and winds absurd humor around it that is delightfully indulgent.

Lee and Ig had been friends in another life, but all that was behind Ig now, had died with Merrin. It was difficult to maintain close friendships when you were under suspicion of being a sex murderer.

As the novel goes on, Ig continues to metamorphose both with the powers the horns give him and through the author’s language, choosing to even further equate Ig’s new anatomy with that of a devil. He is the dark confessor for all of those who lent a hand in condemning him during the investigation into his girlfriend’s murder. I also think it’s an interesting idea from the writer’s perspective to introduce a conceit that allows for the unrestrained revealing of information. Joe Hill writes, “It was, perhaps, the devil’s oldest precept, that sin could always be trusted to reveal what was most human in a person, as often for good as for ill.”

Horns plays a lot with the idea of Church (big C), and the dichotomies between good and evil and what is godly and what is damnation. Ig is an anti-hero, both marked as one by the horns and the difficulties arising when archetypes are ripped apart and redesigned. This is an entirely absorbing novel and the ending (which I shan’t give away!), had whiffs of a plot point in Twin Peaks. Whether this was intentional or not, I do not know, but I enjoyed the possibility.

I am curious to see the film adaptation. Does anyone know further information about release dates?

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*Top images from Wikipedia and IMDb.




  1. I really enjoyed this book. It seems to get a lot of criticism, especially compared to his other novels. People think Horn just doesn’t fit. I think it’s rather great. I’ve been excited for this movie for a long time. I was initially disappointed because they cast Shia LaBeouf as Ig and then excited when he dropped out. I’m ambivalent about Daniel Radcliffe. As far as I can tell, it has not US release date yet. The UK date is in the fall though, so I’m hopeful.

    1. Really? I didn’t know that. I haven’t read his other books, but I’ve read a few short stories, which I enjoyed. I quite liked this book and I thought the writing was very good. It seems unfair for people to pigeonhole authors. I would rather have them try something new and exciting than deliver the same old (for example, at times I think TC Boyle can be guilty of this).

      When I saw that movie still, I was engrossed more with the horns than with Daniel Radcliffe, although, I do like him as an actor. That’s good news about UK release date. Hopefully, it’ll migrate this way, whether in theatres or on DVD release.

  2. I read that one! For me the book had a great premise, but weak execution. And way too many flashbacks.
    As to Daniel Radcliffe – I also like him as an actor, but this role… I didn’t like the character of Ig in the book, so… we will see. I’m more interested in who will play Lee. Let’s check… Max Minghella! Now, that’s going to be interesting 🙂
    Release – 31 October in the UK and probably the US too. http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Daniel-Radcliffe-Horns-Gets-Halloween-UK-Release-Joe-Hill-Updates-U-Release-42493.html

    1. Thanks for the link!
      I do like Max Minghella, so I’m curious how he plays the dastardly Lee. When it comes to Ig, I thought of him more of a vehicle to get real answers out. At some point during the flashbacks, I did have that desire for: let’s get back to the horns. But I did get back into the groove of the flashbacks.

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