Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Review: Author Joe hill has been on my radar for quite some time. Years ago, I read his fantastic collection of short stories and have been following him ever since. His works usually combine his erie sensibilities with fan-boy pop culture throughout. With the release of his latest novel, NOS4A2, Hill has crafted his largest and most ambitious novel to date.
The story mainly follows the character Victoria McQueen. We first meet young Vic as small child. One day, as her parents argue over a lost bracelet, she discovers her secret power. While riding her bike, she rides over the Shorter Way bridge. She comes out on the other side, in the parking lot of the fast-food joint where she ate with her father, hours before. A bit shocked, she enters the restaurant and finds that her mother's lost bracelet was left there. Quickly she returns, traveling again across the bridge, and gives her parents the bracelet.
Over the next few years, Vic's family life goes downhill. After years of witnessing her father's abuse against her mother, Vic continues to use her bike as a kind of escape. Even after the old Shorter Way bridge is torn down, Vic can still ride her bike across it and end up exactly where she needs to be. Fearing that others won't understand this strange gift, she keeps it secret.
One day, Vic has a huge argument with her mother. Her father has since left the family for a younger woman, and Vic lashes out at her mother for searching her room and invading her privacy. Furious, she rides off on her bike, over the Shorter Way bridge, and away from her troubles. But this time, she ends up in the clutches of the evil Charlie Manx. Like Vic, he too can conjure alternate worlds by driving in his antique Rolls Royce. Unlike Vic, however, he uses his power to abduct small children and take them to his created world, Christmasland.
Through determination and luck, Vic is able to escape from his morbid "Sleigh House" and, with the help of some local citizens, put Manx into custody. While in prison, Manx enters a deep coma and remains there for many years, all but forgotten.
Fast forward many years, and Vic has a child of her. Through therapy and various treatments, she has come to terms with her past, and has mostly written off the strange details as childhood fantasy. But all of that changes when Charlie Manx passes away in prison. Of course that in itself is not such a surprise, but the fact that his body then goes missing, after the autopsy, causes a police and media firestorm. But after her experience with Manx, Vic knows what really happened. Manx escaped from the prison and is coming to her for revenge!
At nearly 700 pages, this novel goes into great depth with each character, but never feels long. In fact, this story had me staying up into all hours of the night, just to finish a section. Hill creates flawed characters that you can't help but relate to and root for. The surreal elements of the story are made believable by his detailed descriptions and character reactions. He draws on many elements of pop culture, even devoting part of his mythology to an element from the Harry Potter novels. The juxtaposition of the normal feelings associated with Christmas and the horrific actions that take place at the warped "Christmasland" effectively horrifies and delights at the same time. NOS4A2 is Joe Hill at the top of his game, and I certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.