Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NOS4A2

Thanks to all the Stephen King I'm reading, I had multiple people this year tell me I needed to read NOS4A2, a novel written by his son Joe Hill that has much in common with his father's work. While I don't think you would confuse it for a Stephen King novel, as Joe does have his own unique narrative voice, it would not be difficult to see this being set in the same world that King's characters inhabit. The book is also littered with references, from Pennywise's Circus being labeled on a map, to the villain's servant screaming "My life for you!" to his master at one point. I honestly lost track of them all.

The book also has a female protagonist, one I developed a great amount of affection for over the course of the novel. Victoria McQueen is a flawed individual who has difficult relationships and problems with addiction, but her flaws make her all the more human, and when she strives to do good, you really feel that she's doing her best to make up for the mistakes she's made in her life. The book has striking similarities to the narrative form of King's own Doctor Sleep which came out this same year, in that we follow both protoganists from a young age to adulthood, and the events of their childhood play a large role in what happens to them as adults.

In Vic's case, it all surrounds a psychic vampire named Charlie Manx. Both Vic and Charlie have a psychic ability that allows them to tap into the world inside their mind, and they use physical vehicles to take them there. Vic uses her bike to create a bridge to find lost things, but Charlie uses his Rolls Royce to kidnap children and feed off them to give himself unnaturally long life. He justifies his actions by claiming the children were being mistreated by their parents, and that he's taking them to Christmasland, an amusement park where the kids can play all day and live forever. His justifications and beliefs make him a compelling villain, though the children he takes prove even more creepy, drained of their souls and absolutely horrifying.

The book keeps a pretty good pace, following Vic through the ups and downs of her life. It's definitely the most thrilling when Vic is escaping from Manx as a teenager and again as she chases down Manx with her kidnapped son, but I also enjoyed the quieter times in between that allow us to get to know the various characters involved. My absolute favorite among them in Maggie Lee, another girl with psychic ability, who uses hers to spell out the future in Scrabble tiles. When a young Vic meets her she's thoroughly impressed by her dyed hair, F U earrings and quirky personality, and that's exactly the kind of young woman I would have found the definition of "cool" myself at that age, so I totally understand. I also couldn't help enjoying Lou, the father of Vic's child. He's a stereotypical geek, from his bulging gut to his frequent references to comics and Star Wars and his ability to make the word "Dude!" mean anything, but he's the best of that stereotype, and you can understand why Vic would fall in love with him.

Overall, I was really impressed with the novel and it made me want to experience more of Hill's work. I'll probably end up trying out some of his comic book work next, to see how his writing translates to that medium. I'd recommend this book to not just fans of Stephen King, but to horror and sci-fi fans in general.

2 comments:

  1. The only piece by Joe Hill I've read was the FCBD issue of Locke and Key - which I thought was entertaining, but nothing extraordinary. But if your review is anything to go by, NOS4A2 is the kind of book I might be interested in. Once I finish reading what I'm reading right now, I'll see if my local library has a copy.

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    1. In the afterword to the book, Joe Hill says that the theme of people living both in the "real" world and another world inside their head is something he really believes in, and it's a theme he frequently uses in his writing. That alone definitely makes me want to check out more.

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