Published by HarperCollins on October 15th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Psychological, Thrillers, General
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
Joe Hill, the acclaimed, award-winning author of the New York Times bestsellers Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, plunges you into the dark side of the imagination with a thrilling novel of supernatural suspense . . .
Victoria "Vic" McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn't tell anyone about her unusual ability.
Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie's twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.
And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble . . . and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie. Now the only kid ever to escape Charlie's twisted imagination is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx hasn't stopped thinking about Vic McQueen. On the road again, he won't slow down until he's taken his revenge. . . .
“Was there any human urge more pitiful-or more intense- than wanting another chance at something?”
Growing up I was a major Stephen King fan, so I guess it’s kind of weird I never really finished many of his books. So when I heard his son had grown up to be a writer I was a bit skeptical, and worried I would constantly compare the two. After having read two of Joe Hill’s books, I no longer think that. My first Joe Hill novel was Horns, which later was adapted into a film staring Daniel Radcliffe. The book was wonderful. Hill’s tounge-in-cheek-humor fills the books, and gives a wonderfully weird contrast to the horrific images he creates. While the film didn’t live up to the novel (do they ever?), it was still a quirky, horror masterpiece.
“The difference between childhood and adulthood, Vic had come to believe, was the difference between imagination and resignation. You traded one for the other and lost your way.”
NOS4A2 is Hill’s Christmas themed story of good vs. evil. Victoria “Vic” McQueen is the badass protagonist who sets out to destroy a child abductor and “vampire,” Charles Talent Manx. The two of them have a unique ability to travel from their world into the world of the imagination, and can even bring others along for the ride. For Vic, her childhood bicycle allows her to travel wherever the lost items she desires can be found. As for Manx, his tool is a classic Rolls-Royce Wraith. With it he transports children to his fantasy adventure park called Christmasland. Vic is the only person who ever escaped Manx, and it’s inevitable that the pair will have one final stand-off.
“Well. That’s helpful. We’ll put an APB out on the Gingerbread Man. I’m not hopeful it’ll do us much good, though. Word on the street is you can’t catch him.”
Readers travel this bizarre, magical landscape via the point of views of Victoria, Max, and a few other characters. Along the way we learn that Vic and Manx aren’t the only one with this uncanny ability, and learn about the consequences of having such powers. Hill counteracts the horrifying subject matter of child kidnapping and murder with his brand of snarky humor that will keep you laughing, and feeling uncomfortable about doing so.
While there were a few moments where I felt that the plot dragged a tad, for the most part I stayed glued to the pages. Victoria is a likable protagonist despite her hard living, and sad outlook on life. No matter what she does, you can’t help but root for her. Manx is a terrifying villain in that he actually believes he’s doing good by taking the children from their families. The paradise he’s created in his mind is the most terrifying amusement park I’ve ever heard of. So much so, that I’ll admit to having a nightmare, or two, from reading this book.
“Everyone lives in two worlds,” Maggie said, speaking in an absentminded sort of way while she studied her letters. “There’s the real world, with all its annoying facts and rules. In the real world, there are things that are true and things that aren’t. Mostly the real world s-s-s-suh-sucks. 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. Creative people, like writers, and Henry Rollins, spend a lot of their time hanging out in their thoughtworld. S-s-strong creatives, though, can use a knife to cut the stitches between the two worlds, can bring them together. Your bike. My tiles. Those are our knives.”
If you are looking for a different kind of holiday book. One that will give you some thrills, chills, and a few laughs, then NOS4A2 is one you should put on your Christmas list. Hill’s beautifully descriptive writing will keep you riveted to the page, and maybe you’ll even catch Santa coming down the chimney. Hopefully, not, because… that may be a whole new level of terror.