Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: NOS4A2

WILLIAM MORROW/HarperCollins – @WmMorrowBks and @HarperCollins

AUTHOR: Joe Hill – @joe_hill
ILLUSTRATIONS: Gabriel Rodriguez
COVER: Shutterstock (Gingerman)
ISBN: 978-0-06-220058-7; paperback (October 15, 2013)
718pp, B&W, $17.99 U.S.

NOS4A2 is a 2013 horror novel from short story writer and novelist, Joe Hill, his third novel after Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.  Joe Hill is the penname of writer Joseph Hillstrom King, who is also one of author Stephen King’s sons.  Comic book fans may also know Hill as the writer and creator of the ongoing comic book series, Locke & Key.  NOS4A2 contains illustrations by artist Gabriel Rodriguez, who has drawn most of Locke & Key.

NOS4A2 (which can be pronounced, “Nosferatu”), focuses on two characters.  The first is Victoria “Vic” McQueen, whom we meet as a preteen and follow into adulthood.  Vic has a secret gift for finding things:  a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions, etc.  When riding her Raleigh Tuff Burner bicycle, Vic thinks of something she has to find, and the Shorter Way, a rickety covered bridge appears.  She rides into the bridge, and it takes her wherever she needs to go in order to find the thing for which she is looking.  It does not matter if the location is across her home state of Massachusetts or across the country.

The other character is Charles Talent “Charlie” Manx.  He is a murderer, who has a special way with children.  Manx likes to take children (mostly of elementary and junior high age) for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity license plate.  This old car, also simply known as “The Wraith,” allows Manx to slip right out of the everyday, “real” world, and into a world created out of his imagination.  Manx calls this world “Christmasland,” a bizarre amusement park where everyday is Christmas.  There, the children never age or die, and they stay with Manx forever.

One day, Vic McQueen went looking for Manx.  She became the only child to escape him.  Now, he is back for revenge against Vic and is more than willing to use her son, Bruce Wayne Carmody, as a pawn.

I found NOS4A2 to be imaginative, but also weird.  It mixes the character melodrama of Stephen King and the warped realities of Peter Straub (who has collaborated with Stephen King).  NOS4A2 is also too damn long.  Stephen King had published numerous novels before he could get away with being unedited (see The Stand).  Joe Hill has only been publishing for a short time, but already no one at his publisher was apparently willing to step in and cut this sumbitch of a novel down about 200 pages… or maybe even in half.

There are parts of this novel that are riveting, many involving Charlie Manx’s assistant, Bing Partridge.  In fact, Manx is a good villain and monster.  He is even worth discussing in detail.  Is Manx technically a child molester?  Vic McQueen, our hero, is not quite as good.  She has some similarities to Isabella “Bella” Swan of the Twilight novels, but Vic is not as endearing as Bella.  Vic takes Bella’s moodiness and turns it into mental distress that is more tedious than sympathetic.

NOS4A2 is a good read, but I often found myself not wanting to bother with it.  The last 200 pages really grabbed my attention and imagination.  I don’t think of this as a negative book review of NOS4A2; still, I have to be honest.  I think that NOS4A2 is a good book gone bad by its length.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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