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Monday, June 3, 2013

Review: 'NOS4A2'

By Joe Hill
May 2013
William Morrow
ISBN: 978-0-220057-0

Vic McQueen is a great kid who doesn't like conflict, especially when her parents fight, or Dad hits Mom. She wants to escape. And on her gorgeous bicycle, one that's too big for her but which her dad got her anyway, she can. The first time Vic gets across the Shorter Way Bridge, she magically finds herself miles away and retrieves her mother's lost bracelet.

But another time, as a rebellious, unhappy teenager, she goes looking for trouble. She finds it in the form of Charles Manx, a ghoulish figure who captures children he deems in jeopardy from parents whose conduct he doesn't like, and takes them to his version of paradise, Christmasland. Unlike the other children, Vic is the one who gets away.

The experience, and her other trips across the Shorter Way, cost Vic her sanity. She hooks up with Lou Carmody, a big, gentle soul who drove by on his motorcycle when she got away from Manx, and who fathers their child, Bruce Wayne Carmody. She draws elaborate, mazelike illustrations about a cartoon character that meets with success. Vic draws so she can't hear the phone ring. It's the children from Christmasland calling her.

After she spends years in asylums and rehab, she and her son plan to spend the summer together. Manx, whose antique Rolls Royce carries the vanity plate NOS4A2, is ready to take his revenge for Vic getting away. He's going to take Wayne to Christmasland.

This is the bare bones of what happens in the first half of Joe Hill's remarkable, fantastical and exuberant tour de force. This is a big book in more ways than its 700-plus pages. This is a full-bodied, heavy stout of a tale, with rich characters to care about and wry observations on families, society and pop culture. There are nods to the work of his father, Stephen King, and a wise and wonderful character named after his mother, Tabitha. There is knowledge of having a beloved parent and being a loving parent, and of being a kid.

Perhaps best of all is the voice, which is knowing and looks for the humor, but which is not sardonic. The action is brisk. If someone could ride a bicycle across a bridge to end up in an entirely different place, the rest of the story hangs together very well.

Adding to the entertaining reading experience is what happens after the climax of the story. Hill knows how to wrap things up so that the reader can sit back and know the hell of a ride that he presents was a complete journey.

©2013 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission


  1. I've heard nothing but great things about this book and it totally sounds like the type of horror I can get into. I tend to be very careful with certain genres and this is one of them, but when enough people recommend I have to jump on the bandwagon.

  2. There were very few gruesome scenes, which is why I usually shy away from horror. Hill so obviously loves telling stories that the sheer exuberance is contagious.