Joe Hill should have a fairly good idea what it means to be an author, with a couple of books under his belt — Heart-Shaped Box and Horns — as well as a short story collection — 20th Century Ghosts — plus a successful ongoing graphic novel series called Lock & Key; but his latest novel, NOS4A2 puts him on a stage of developed storytelling with his father, Stephen King. The book has an epic complexity and depth in both character and story, with a villain that will haunt your nightmares for a long time to come, akin to King’s It or The Talisman.
Our hero is Victoria McQueen, a young girl with extraordinary dreams and one very powerful ability. When she is given the Raleigh Tuff Burner bike as a birthday gift, she knows it’s a little too big but very powerful, and when she rides it as fast as she can towards that old bridge across the creek that crashed and disintegrated years ago, she can see the bridge rebuilt and she can cross it to just about wherever she wants. Crossing that bridge lets her find things, like a missing bracelet or photograph, or what happened to her cat, as well as answers to questions she might not want to know. She just has to believe, and she is magically taken there, whether it’s Massachusetts or across the country. She is a girl with a gift that only few others have.
Our villain is one Charles Talent Manx who has the same ability as Victoria, except his mode of transportation is a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity license plate . . . yep, you guessed it: NOS4A2; this black demon car from hell is of course referred to as “The Wraith.” It is with this aged car that Manx takes children who he believes are destined to have traumatic, horrible lives, to his manufactured tinsel town known as “Christmasland,” where every day is Christmas and the children get to go on the rides, and eat candy canes, have snowball fights, and meet Santa; but there is also a cost for these children; something is being taken from them. And they never come back.
But because she is our hero, Victoria will have a meeting and battle with Manx and get him put away for a long time, not for all the missing children, but for something else. But then, many years later, Manx will return, because there’s one thing that’s certain: he’s not human. And this time he’ll be taking Victoria’s child up to Christmasland, and it’s up to her to get him back, before he becomes lost forever.
NOS4A2 shows that Joe Hill has the talent, skill and ability to write a truly great horror novel that puts him right at the top with other greats. NOS4A2 is a novel about many things: our wants and desires in life and that we don’t always get them; how sometimes our nightmares aren’t gone for good; how the love of the child will always supersede anything else, no matter the cost. It is also a fantastic horror novel that will make you simultaneously terrified of it and in love with it, unable to put it down.
Originally written on June 14, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.
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