[Book Review] Horns

Horns / Joe Hill (Powell's Books)

No one would be surprised to learn that Ignatius Parrish was a devil, after all they all know he was the one to murder and rape his girlfriend.  At least, no one would be surprised except the actual murderer.  So when Ig wakes up one morning with horns growing out of his forehead it's just another addition to the hell he's lived in since Merrin told him they should see other people for awhile, then was found dead the next morning.  The dark spiral of his life speeds up as the horns seem to effect those around him, confessing secret desires and impulses, taking only a signal of approval from Ig to act on them.

What unsettled me the most about the story is how believable the characters were as normal people.  That Lee's interpretation and subsequent actions sounded realistic to me.  The dark fantasy elements are laid on top of a man's life that's sunk into a personal hell, and he finally has the means to reach out and tear it apart.

I'm usually not a horror reader, so it took me a long time to get around to reading Horns the first time.  Once I started I tore through it as the story drew me in.  It's less speculative in nature than most of the Virtual Speculation picks, but I really wanted to include it nonetheless, so I slotted it in as a thematic pick for October. 

Discussion Fodder:
  • This book is extremely heavy on symbolism, what stood out to you, and what do you think about it's meaning?  (Examples: The Pit, the cherry bomb, the nativity scene, pitchforks, snakes, etc)
  • Was Ig meant to become whatever it is he became all along?  Why does Ig transform?  Is it because of his actions at Merrin's shrine or is he a foil to Lee?
  • Is anyone in the story good, is anyone evil?  What do you think of the motivations and actions of community members, of Ig, of Ig's family?  What do you think about their confessions?
  • Both Lee and Ig feel that the cross signified a right to Merrin.  How do you think the story would have gone had Lee returned the cross to her?  What do you think about the connection between Merrin & Ig?
  • After Lee gets caught in the explosion he says that "It was to remind me."  What do you think he means?
  • What do you think about Merrin's decisions?  Both in regards to her relationship with Ig and concerning treatment for her cancer?
  • How do you think the story would be told from Lee's point of view?
  • What do you think about Ig's sermon to the snakes?  "I see God now as an unimaginative writer of popular fictions, someone who builds stories around sadistic and graceless plots, narratives that exist only to express His terror of a woman's power to choose who and how to love, to redefine love as she sees fit, not as God thinks it ought to be.  The author is unworthy of His own characters.  The devil is first a literary critic, who delivers this untalented scribbler the public flaying he deserves."
  • What do you think about the Tree House of the Mind?  What is the Tree House of the Mind?
  • If you watched the movie, what do you think of the adaptation?  Does it capture the spirit of the story?  How do the changes made affect the story?

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