In Horns, we find a likable and well-meaning protagonist in Ig, whose life in his small New Hampshire town – a life once cushioned by his family's wealth and status – has been shattered by the rape and murder of his girlfriend Merrin. Ig was never tried for the crime, but he's always been the primary suspect, and just about everyone in town thinks he's guilty … The real horror, Hill seems to suggest, is in the unadorned truth that usually goes unspoken. And although a devil's-eye view onto the world shows Ig the world at its worst, it also gives him the opportunity to peer more deeply into the mystery of Merrin's death … Here is a richly nuanced story that traces the catastrophes of adult lives gone wrong to the complex and fraught relationships of children.
On the day the novel begins, Ig wakes up and finds people can't stop confessing. Coincidentally, that's also the day he discovers he's growing horns. And his skin can change colors. Along the way he even acquires a pitchfork. So is he becoming what the world believes him to be? … Thankfully, Hill is confident enough to commit seriously to this premise but also poke a little fun at his story along the way. There are comic references everywhere, from the devil in a blue dress to an almost mandatory Rolling Stones allusion. Hill has already proved himself a leading light of fantastical writing in the 21st century, but what makes Horns such a pleasure is that he avoids the seriousness that can pervade books meant to be spooky.
The strange thing about Horns is that its opening scenes aren’t all that strange. Its author, Joe Hill, is able to make Ig’s problem seem like the most natural thing in the world … Horns seems to have one or two miscreants too many. But they do allow Mr. Hill to wheel out his full arsenal of demon references, to the point where pitchforks and snakes get to be business as usual … the heart of Horns — and it unmistakably has one — has to do with Ig’s deep love for the woman he has lost. And Mr. Hill is able to equate that love with a quest for goodness.