On a chilly summer morning, one year after the brutal murder of his girlfriend Merrin, Ig Parrish wakes up to find that two small horns have sprouted from his head. He is puzzled as to why they are there, but when he goes to ask people what to do about them they suddenly tell him their deepest, darkest desires. A doctor confesses he’d like to grind up some oxy and snort it. A cop tells him he‘d like to shoot him in the face because he doesn’t like the look of him. His mother tells him she’s always thought he was weird and wishes she’d only had his older brother. Snakes suddenly follow him wherever he goes. Dumbfounded and alarmed by his new powers, Ig sets out to find who really killed Merrin and extract revenge.
Enough has been said about the Joe Hill-Stephen King connection, so I will just say this: I like King, but Hill is without a shadow of a doubt the better writer of the two. There’s something fresh about his work, and a keen eye for – well, not exactly mythology but rather the things that lie just outside of our common folklore, the things that lurk in the shadows of pop culture, of fairytales and folk tales. There’s also something darkly comical about the novel in the way people revert to their base instincts when they’re around Ig.
Ig, though, is more than just an anchor for plot points. Ironically, he’s a pretty decent guy who tries to use his powers for good. He doesn’t always succeed; he isn’t perfect. He’s hurt and impatient and very angry. Ultimately, though, the horns come to symbolise something other than evil. Merrin, as a character, manages to avoid the pitfalls of the manic pixie dream girl; she’s sweet but not subservient, genuine but not grating. The bad guy, meanwhile, is just bad and comes with some cliches the way pirates come with eyepatches, but whatever. It still works.
This is my second Hill book (NOS4A2 was the first one). This was a slightly shorter, less convoluted read and I wished I’d started with this one. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by both and I can’t wait to check out the rest of his books.