The story starts right off the bat. Ig Perrish woke up with horns protruding from his head, a year after the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Merrin Williams. From there, things get a little bit weirder.
This is a story about a man who ended up in a really fucked up situation. Everything becomes weirder when people begin acting on things they're most compelled to do after certain words of encouragement. Things that shatters, tempts, and disgusts Ig.
Worst, things are never safe, physically - emotionally. Behind all those who you run to for comfort, those who were supposed to be your refuge, your sanctuary of peace and harmony - turns out to be one of the biggest fucking lie to have ever been slapped your face. Shocked, stunned, traumatized, whatever, the shit is on you, abandoning you with nothing but a severe heartache, misery, and a huge migraine that wouldn't go away until you've finally murdered someone, letting the corrosive substance known as evil engulf you in it's cesspool of vile sins and temptations. You are drawn to it, feed upon it, relinquishing all that had ever held you back and it seems I've gone astray here.
The real horror Horns deliver is through psychological and emotional distress. The situation Ig has been going through, how everyone looks at him behind his back. And yes, if you are a guy who deeply loves his woman, the thought of her gone from your life from such an incident is as tormenting as any possible horror in real life.
Ig wanders down this confused path of his trying to piece back together what's left of his shattered life: Revenge. At this point you are convinced about who Ig Perrish is, and you may want to put a hand on his shoulder and tell him, it's all right, but instead you're most likely going to say something you never thought of saying - things you've been denying throughout your life, those little guys in red jumpsuits hold on for you until you
In some ways, this is frightening. That evil susurrus you've been trying to force as far back away from you as possible, is clinging right on your shoulder, waiting for your breaking point to consume you. Everyone holds something back, dark and sinister it may be, the urge to take something that is not yours, the rage filled sensation to harm others, the lustful act to cheat on your partner - we all have our demons residing within us. For Ig, it's revenge.
He may have horns. But he is like a priest - a confessor, he will listen to your anguish, the darkness living within, despite all the shit he's going through and he will have the power to relive you, to free you of your burden. Or, castrate you from doing it, thus, keeping you locked up in your cursed, visceral prison, called restraint.
Such power. It's almost evil itself, and as the cliche goes, in the wrong hands it could have been a hell lot worst. But Ig is that kind of person who you will come to respect, love, and care for. You can probably visualize him as normal guy, holding Merrin's hand as they walk down the park, with some Beatles song playing in the background - until this faustian transformation, you'll be hearing Once or Sympathy For The Devil. And you may wonder what would Ig do with the things he can do.
While the world sees Ig as the Devil. The main villain is seen as a saint, a warrior and staunch follower of God. Every word he speaks reek of bullshit - chains rattle, restraining from visualizing yourself from strangling and smoldering him. But the main villain is not at all, just plain evil, you might start feeling some sympathy for him, and yet, after everything he had done, there doesn't seem to be an excuse. You just want him tossed into the eternal flames where he deserves.
Well, more of the novel itself.
The novel is a stunning, readable, somewhat fast-paced, chilling, and blood boiling - if you're affected by the emitted emotion. And a lot of music references, which seems to be an on going staple for Joe Hill. His first novel, Heart-Shaped Box had a lot of musical reference as well, which is wicked cool - I found myself searching some songs he had mentioned, and I must say, Joe Hill has excellent taste in music.
The story spirals on several sub genre elements from here and there - damsel in distress, crime solving, and, other stuff I don't really want to reveal. Each chapter ends with a fever-inducing cliffhanger that compels you to take another five or so minutes to read the next chapter until there is nothing left to read. It builds itself up slowly by following a nonlinear narrative, giving you a good background about Ig, Merrin, and everyone they meet.
As for the characters, I don't find it impossible if Stephen King had written this, he would have had point-of-views of nearly each and every character in the book, turning this three hundred-something-paged novel to a thousand. That's just one of King's styles, deep characterization of every actors in play and show other happenings beside the main group of the story, stuff like IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone and a few others. Joe Hill does this in his own way and treats his characters like a skirt - short enough to be interesting, long enough to cover the essentials. You eventually start caring about them in a certain way and feel they were developed well enough without straining too far from the main story line.
This isn't a one-two-three layered story, you get to explore a lot of stories behind and around everything. About Ig, about his family, about his friends, about Merrin, about other things why they are happening. The story is sweet, gentle, brutal, surreal, and magical all at the same time - convoluted with its twists and simple once everything settles.
A sidetrack theme I noticed, is having snakes in the story. I find it so metaphorical in many ways about what a snake may represent. It seems every character - the major ones at least - has a snake of their own, hiding beneath their cowls. All of that will be revealed later.
By the end of the novel, you're probably dazed by the surging amount of fire and smoke, and you probably say, "What the hell?" If it isn't spoilers, to the very least, stomach cringing, heartbreaking as it might be, you will - hopefully - close the book satisfied. It is, for my taste, possibly one of the sweetest endings I've ever read. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards - at least, their presence, somewhat, will be there, reminding that You Can't Always Get What You Want.