Joe Hill brings his father’s influences to dark novel

When your father is Stephen King, the master of the horror story, it makes sense to write a dark tale about the devil inside all of us.

From the opening line of Joe Hill’s second novel, “Horns,” (2010) which says “Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things,” – it’s pretty obvious that things aren’t going to go well for Ig.

The story begins with the aptly titled first chapter, “Hell.” Ig wakes up the next morning with a pair of horns growing out of his head. He figured he was hallucinating, so he heads over to the doctor’s office.

But along the way, his interactions with people become extremely unusual and unpleasant for him. People don’t seem to notice the horns and they begin to tell him their deep, dark secrets.

But then you learn more about Ig’s history and why the opening line probably wasn’t the first time he had done something regretful. A year earlier, Ig’s girlfriend, Merrin Williams, was violently murdered. Although the crime was never solved, most people in the small New Hampshire town believed Ig was the murderer. Some even “confess” that when they see him. When he goes to visit his family, he realizes his grandmother despises him and that his parents also believe he is guilty. His brother, Terry, is the only one who knows who the true killer is – what, you think I’m going to give that away? – and that discovery angers Ig, who returns to the scene of the crime.

Once there, drama ensues as the guilty party realizes Ig is figuring out the truth. Ig ends up becoming engulfed in flames, which surprisingly do not kill him.

He also discovers that he can telepathically communicate with snakes.

I won’t spoil the story for you, but there are several other juicy subplots that keep the story moving along very quickly.

The front and back inside cover of the book is written in Morse code, which is revealed as “Pleased to meet you; hope you guess my name,” the lyrics from the Rolling Stones’ song, “Sympathy for the Devil.” There’s a devil theme here, but it’s more than that. Ig is not really a villain, as the reader comes to realize, but a misunderstood antihero.

“Horns” is a wickedly fun story that explores more than just the God vs. Devil themes. It’s a love story, a crime story and a horror story all rolled into one – Stephen King style. It’s a must read for King fans.

On another note, Harry Potter fans might be surprised to find out their hero is the horned star of the recent movie directed by Alexandre Aja.

The publicity photos of a horned Daniel Radcliffe gave me the visual I needed to understand why people didn’t react instantly to the horns on Ig’s head.

The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is expected to be released early next year.