NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.
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.
“Fantasy was always only a reality waiting to be switched on.”
I’m going to avoid my normal spiel about the basics of the plot because unfortunately, anything I say sounds silly. Truly. Imaginary bridges. Soul sucking cars. Creepy vampire children. Christmasland. I just can’t do it justice and describe the enormity of the plot sufficiently. It also fails to fall under a single genre. It’s classic horror, paranormal and even a bit of a fantasy. I will say though, this is one extremely well-told story that brings to life everything that’s considered out of this world and makes it real.
“No one had ever determined his age, but he looked older than Keith Richards. He even looked a little like Keith Richards–a bald Keith with a mouthful of sharp little brown teeth.”
The ‘bad’ guy was fantastically written. Charles Talent Manx has nothing but the best intentions for the children he takes to Christmasland. He believes that he’s taking them from broken homes and saving them from a life that will be less than satisfactory. How does he know this for sure? Well, he doesn’t But he’s completely convinced himself regardless. Charles Max is complex and fascinating and is undeniably one of the finest written bad guys I’ve ever read.
“But everyone also lives in the world inside their own head. An inscape, a world of thought. In a world made of thought–in an inscape–every idea is a fact. Emotions are as real as gravity. Dreams are as powerful as history.”
Another thing I loved was how the characters came to terms with the fantasy aspects. Vic has a gift for being able to find lost things by crossing a bridge that she brushes aside as a result of a hyperactive imagination. She had a brief stint in a mental institution but slowly came to terms with the fact that everything is in fact real. Vic is an amazing character and despite the implausibility of it all, it was given a slow and appropriate build before Vic finally believed it herself. I’ve read so many stories where characters have a gift or something impossible occurs and too many times it’s not flushed out and explained so when the character(s) accepts it completely almost immediately it makes the characters actions from then on illogical. Vic may have been damaged and imperfect but she was entirely believable.
This was a solid five-star book for me and was a complete delight throughout. The last 15 pages or so? Fell flat. It inevitably dropped that solid five star rating down to four. Despite that though, it was a pleasure. What I loved most about this was as creepy and full of horror as NOS4A2 is it still manages to produce an almost involuntary comicalness. It’s obvious that the author had an immense amount of fun writing this. Joe Hill is unquestionably one incredibly gifted storyteller.
Final Note: For those of you who have read Heart Shaped Box, did any of you catch the reference to it?
“There was Craddock McDermott who claimed that his spirit existed in a favorite suit of his.”
I take that to mean the world of NOS4A2 and Heart Shaped Box are one in the same.
I can’t resist matching up a Christmas cocktail to go with this book. This is perfect for the chilly atmosphere nestled in these pages and would even warm up Charlie Max and his little ‘pint-size vampires’.