Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: "NOS4A2" by Joe Hill

Simply put: NOS4A2 is Joe Hill’s masterpiece, but not in the sense that it is the best thing he is going to do in his writing career. While I hate to compare him to his world famous father (even though this book does make references to Shawshank Penitentiary and Derry, Maine), this book is going to do for Hill’s career what the novel It did for his dad. It acts as a culmination of all of the themes he has become famous for. It’s a grand statement in a grand 700-page book that makes all of his previous novels look minor in comparison. Hill has carved out quite a place for himself in the horror genre, one completely separate from his famous namesake. His stories are like classic fairy tales with very adult themes and extremely real and graphic violence, whether that be a crowbar in Horns, or a giant autopsy mallet like in this one. He blends these two distinct themes and uses that narrative concoction to tell a story with great humane depth and insight into normal and damaged people confronted with a harrowing situation. They approach the situation much like we would, with a sense of hesitation and doubt as to whether or not we are strong enough to defeat what is in front of us. And while a lot of his books and stories have a giant mean streak (look no further than his story “The Cape” or his comic series Locke and Key), he never sacrifices the heart of a story, or its emotional impact for cheap shocks. This novel begins when we meet Vic McQueen, a young girl from a tenuous home, who discovers that the bike her dad got her for her birthday is actually a talisman that is able to bridge the gap between the real world and her imagination in the form of a covered bridge that acts as a pathway between lost and found. When her mother loses a bracelet at their vacation spot, Vic simply rides her bike over the bridge, and comes upon the restaurant where she left it. We then meet Charles Talent Manx, a truly terrifying villain, who drives around in a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith that, for a lack of a better word, runs on human souls, but not just any souls; the souls of innocent children. Manx drives around the country, “saving” children from broken homes, and taking them to a place called Christmasland, with truly horrifying results. Eventually there two fates collide, which leads to Manx being arrested and the world thinking Vic is a lunatic, despite being married to Lou, a nice, albeit unappealing guy, and authoring a successful children’s book series. After ten years, the Wraith gets restored, and Manx wakes up from his coma looking for revenge, in the form of Vic’s son Wayne. This book is never boring, and many people will get through its girth faster than I did. It really is a mammoth achievement on par with the novel It. You’d be hard pressed not to see similarities between Manx and Pennywise and Christmasland and the Deadlights. But all comparisons aside, this book is a truly original trip into the fantastical, with one of the most perfect and endearing endings to a genre book I have ever read. It all adds up to the best novel by one of our finest writers, and the good thing is that he is just getting started.
Rating: 5/5

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