Behind the Mask: Horns

IF THERE’S one thing Joe Hill’s novel Horns does best, it is to show that everyone wears a mask. People are reluctant to reveal their true selves to others, often twisting their words to save face and protect feelings. But what if one had the ability to remove a person’s mask? To delve deeply into someone’s thoughts and desires, digging up the secrets that lurk within the unconscious mind. Perhaps an even scarier thought would be having little or no control over this power. It is this thought that is a driving force of Horns’ plot and part of what makes the novel so unique.

The story follows Ig Perrish, whose girlfriend Merrin Williams was raped and murdered a year before. Everyone in his hometown of Gideon suspects him of committing the crime, but when a mysterious fire in the forensics lab destroys the only evidence, there is nothing left to either prove or deny Ig’s innocence.


Horns, by Joe Hill

One morning, after a drunken night of “doing terrible things”, Ig wakes up to find horns growing out of his head. Suddenly people are telling him their secrets – some disturbingly funny, others just plain disturbing. With this strange new power he begins to uncover hidden knowledge, including the truth behind Merrin’s death.

I first came across Horns when I saw the film adaptation’s trailer in my newsfeed. It immediately grabbed my interest with its promises of dark humour, destructive romance, mystery and Daniel Radcliffe. The film is not due to be released in theatres until this Halloween, so I rushed out to buy myself a copy of the novel to make sure that these promises weren’t just empty.

I was not disappointed.

Without spoiling things for any potential readers out there, I found that the plot’s mystery unravelled easily. While this would have been dissatisfying in an ordinary thriller or mystery novel, in Horns it created tension and kept you reading until you knew that Merrin’s killer got what they deserved. The novel ends with good old fashioned revenge, making up for the fact its conclusion is not and can never be a happy one.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quirky tale, interested in psychoanalysis theory (seriously, you can make a drinking game from all of its Freudian references), or someone who wishes to try a darker piece of fiction that doesn’t go overboard with its use of gore.