Friday, August 5, 2011

Spooky Good: Horns

One concept that I'm trying to drill into my kids' minds is self-censorship.  Everyone has mean thoughts and desires, but not everyone shares these evil impulses with the world.  Joe Hill's Horns: A Novel would add an exception to that rule, because everyone Ig meets after he develops horns on his head confides all their darkest wishes to him, and he finds himself able to nudge them along the path to fulfilling these.

Ig navigates among the terrible hidden thoughts of first strangers, as he tries to figure out why he has sprouted horns, and then his family, made worse by finding that even his closest relatives believe him guilty of the horrific murder of his almost fiance Merrin.  The nature of good and evil gets examined from many angles -- some characters are truly evil (Lee), some are weakly bad, and some have bad impulses they don't follow for reasons of laziness, social standing, or conscience.  The book starts with the horns and moves back and forth to the start of Ig and Merrin's relationship, as well as Ig and Lee.  Religion gets skewered, as does the the nature of the devil, Ig's new patron.  Yet everything is grounded in characters who stay real despite the magic realism curling around them, characters who alternately accept and reject the miracles crossing their lives.  The themes sound heavy, but Hill also saturates the text with references to everything from Gremlin cars to deviled eggs so that I found myself grinning even as the plot spirals downward around Ig.

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