Just the other day I assumed I would take forever to finish Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, pushing me past CBR9. I was wrong; there comes a point in the novel where it becomes really difficult to put it down and I reached it and blitzed through til almost 1am last night. Which is saying something I suppose, considering I’m usually snoring loudly by 11:30 most nights. NOS4A2 is a supernatural thriller slash crime novel with a kickass heroine and a pretty good cast of supporting characters. I think the reason I only rate it three stars is I can’t ever say I really LIKE reading about murdering children, and it’s really damn long so it’s not something I’ll ever revisit.
Victoria McQueen (aka Brat aka Vic) is the only child of a shitty marriage growing up in the 80s in New England. Her father gets her a Raleigh Tuff Burner bike for her birthday one year and on it, she discovers she can find just about anything that’s lost. If she pedals her Raleigh fast enough, a long-defunct covered bridge, called the Shorter Way, appears and takes her to wherever any lost thing is. Charles Talent Manx is a tall, creepy man of indeterminate age who drives an antique Rolls Royce Wraith with the license plate NOS4A2. In this Wraith, he is able to kidnap slews of children to take them to Christmasland, a special place where children live forever and every day is like Christmas. At 17, when Vic is looking to find some trouble on her Raleigh bike, she happens across Manx and narrowly escapes with her life, helping put Manx behind bars in the first place. Many years later, Manx is back on the loose and looking for revenge and kidnaps Vic’s son Bruce. Vic must overcome years of self-doubt, crippling addictions and mental illness to do whatever it takes to find her son before he succumbs to the powers of the magic Wraith and Manx and she loses him forever.
I did end up liking this novel, though I had to take a break from it at first. Once it really sunk in that there were fantastical and supernatural elements to the story it was easier to stomach the details. This is my first Joe Hill novel. I read a lot of Stephen King as a teenager and haven’t really picked him up since. I can see Hill’s father’s influences occasionally in the novel, as well as a direct reference (Pennywise is the name of a place on a map). It’s been a long time but I got a Needful Things vibe from this book right off the bat. That isn’t to say that this novel is anything like Needful Things, I could just tell that the apple has not fallen far from the tree. Victoria McQueen is a great heroine. She is fierce, loyal, angry, proud, brave and cynical. Manx is super creepy as any old man wanting to hang out with children should be. There isn’t anything sexual about his interest in children at least. He loves violence and has a low tolerance for today’s modern woman and her independence. Maggie Leigh, the spunky librarian who helps Vic figure out her special gift, is not in the book enough. Lou, Vic’s ex/Bruce’s father, is the sweetest person in the whole novel and you really root for him. Hill’s writing is pleasing to my mind’s eye and I was able to picture much of the novel vividly. I’ve already cast Manx (Christopher Heyerdahl) in the film or tv version. I read that AMC has the rights to this and I hope that pans out. Christmasland is the perfect horror setting; decapitated heads, children playing at stabbing drifters, etc. This is a well-written, creepy AF novel that horror buffs should enjoy.