NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 - Joe Hill

I was a huge King fan as a teenager, along with Dean Koontz and Clive Barker, although I've drifted somewhat from horror in the last 20 years. And there's no way you can pick up this book without mentally comparing it with Stephen King, so I'm going to just flat out shamelessly make the comparison.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

In fact, the writing style reminds me of Koontz more, which was both surprising and enjoyable. It's a long book (668 pages in the edition I have) but Stephen King novels have a tendency to drag a little and wander off into sub plots and minor characters that go nowhere. Koontz on the other hand, writes plots that aren't as strong for me as King's stories, but Koontz has a way of driving the book along, where every plot thread or minor character comes back into the story in such a way as to move the plot forward. It's exactly at this where Nos4a2 succeeded for me.

In the end, despite the length, I was engrossed. The antagonist is terrifying, and I actually thought quite original, despite being a trope (yes, you read that sentence right.) Hill avoids all the obvious things Manx could be--how easy it would have been to make him sexually deviant, a sadistic torturer, or many other things--and instead leaves us a man who is utterly blind to the loss of his own humanity. And the protagonist, Vic, is deeply broken and very human, the wounded mother tiger trying to save her cub. I loved her. And I loved Lou. And I thought the book ended perfectly.

So, maybe it's not world shattering literature, but it was very entertaining, and I enjoyed it immensely.