Ryan DeJonghe, August 3, 2015 (view all comments by Ryan DeJonghe)
This doesn’t help: my kids singing Christmas songs in the middle of summer. That’s right. While reading NOS4A2, a book about a draconian dream-weaver who kidnaps children, taking them to a macabre, bloodthirsty place called Christmasland--my own kids are scattering Santa notes throughout the house signing Jingle Bells in July. Not cool kids, not cool.
My introduction to Joe Hill (AKA Stephen King’s son) started with his graphic novel WRAITH, which was written after NOS4A2, but serves as its prequel. WRAITH proved to me that Joe Hill was a sick and gross man. I loved it. You can see through the colorful drawings the children with rows and rows of sharp teeth, chasing down mean, abusive adults; those adults would be the kids’ next dinner. Blood and Christmas--what could be a better match?
I am pleased with Hill’s non-illustrated foray into Christmasland in this book. If anything, the over 700 pages took me deeper into Charlie Manx’s twisted world, revealing the grotesqueness of it all. Even better: a kickbutt female anti-hero. Oh, yeah! Hill’s pages brought the build-up, mystery, and devilishness all to an exciting climax and sentimental close.
My only critique is, as true with many of his father’s writings, this book felt like the bellows of an accordion: the writing was built-up in places where I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough, while in other places it was drawn out with over-detailed descriptions of comic outfits, airport food, or the carpet on the floor. You can tell he had fun writing this, but some of it should have been edited down.
I also appreciated the similarity to what I refer to as King-isms. Stephen Sr. has a habit of concluding his chapters with a laidback observation that makes you laugh at the absurdity of what you’ve just read. It could be an astute observation to a life-inspection-worthy quote. It’s a great tool to engage the readers.
If you can stomach, or even appreciate, the crude nature of its subject matter, or if you are just looking for more King-like writing, I think you’ll be pleased with NOS4A2.
NOTE: If you haven’t seen it already, can you guess what the NOS4A2 license plate stands for?
Joel Karpowitz, January 26, 2014 (view all comments by Joel Karpowitz)
At this point, it's really not too much of a stretch to say that I think I prefer Joe Hill's writing to that of his better known father, Stephen King. In a lot of ways, Nos4a2 is Hill's most King-like book, but he still writes with a vitality and sense of propulsion that King seems to lose sight of, as many of his books meander and dawdle at times with ideas that King latches onto but that don't actually propel narrative forward. (I'll have a chance to compare soon; Doctor Sleep, King's long awaited sequel to The Shining, is sitting in my to-read stack right now).
But I don't want to spend my review of Nos4a2 talking about Stephen King. Here Joe Hill introduces a concept that loosely connects at least one of his earlier works (I don't remember his short stories enough to know if there were references to them the way there was a passing allusion to his first novel, Heart Shaped Box) in a wonderful way: the connection between fantasy and reality (and, in Hill's writing, the way that some people can cross between and blend together the two worlds): The Inscape. It's a concept that he clearly loves--it's at the heart of his excellent comic series, Locke & Key--and it works beautifully here as well. Victoria McQueen has a bike that lets her find lost things--she just crosses over a bridge that shouldn't exist, and boom, she's where those lost items can be found--but when she runs into trouble one day, her life will forever be altered. Because trouble takes the form of Charlie Manx, a twisted old man who bleeds the innocence from the young in exchange for a trip to Christmasland, the imaginary world in his head in which everyday is Christmas and children can forever eat candy, open presents, and play games like scissors-for-the-drifter. Manx bends reality to suit his desires, and those desires come at a price. When Victoria escapes from Manx's custody (avoiding being caught in his 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith), she is forever scarred by it, and the two seem destined to meet again for another confrontation.
Hill's story flies along, full of little allusions, gags, shocks, and surprises, and it bleeds on every page with a great degree of humanity. Hill, like his father, is more than willing to put his characters through and into hellacious situations, but he also sees his stories through to satisfying conclusions (and note that satisfying doesn't necessarily mean happy or that every character you like will live)--something else King always struggles with to me. This may be popcorn lit, but it's popcorn lit that leaves me content and satisfied and ready for more. And it's horror that kept me up at night--not in fear, but unable to put down the novel. And that's a good thing. Because I have a feeling Hill isn't done with his concept of the Inscape. I believe it will show up again in some form or other. And when it does, I'll be there, ready to read again.
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Daniel Albert, August 3, 2013 (view all comments by Daniel Albert)
I really enjoyed reading this story. This is the second book I read from this author, the first being "Heart Shaped Box", and although "Heart Shaped Box" was a good read, it didn't grab me like "NOS4A2". In my opinion this newest book by Joe Hill compares to Stephen King's best efforts, and has the same writing style as "The Shining". It grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't release me until the very last page. If you can understand what the title means, you know what kind of story this is and what you're in for. If you don't understand the title, never fear, it is explained in the book.
The bottom line - I am a huge Stephen King fan ( I'm around 250 pounds, I would call that huge!) and I highly recommend this book to other Stephen King fans; you'll be pleasantly surprised. 5 stars
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Andrew Broussard, March 9, 2013 (view all comments by Andrew Broussard)
Amazing. Career-defining. This is the big one, the epic that establishes Joe Hill as a titanic force in the fiction world.
He learned a lot from his dad, yes that's true - but this book is on par with some of King's best work and it's only Hill's third (not including Locke & Key) book. It is massive, full of heart and life and terror and wonder. It's actually... it's hard to find words to explain the surprisingly simple beauty of a novel like this. This is Great American Fiction, right here - tackling family themes and societal issues while also burning rubber to tell a heart-poundingly terrifying story. At 700ish pages, it practically flies out of your hands even in the slow bits. I stayed up two nights running until I fell asleep with the book on my chest because I could. not. put it down.
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William Morrow & Company -
by Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of The Prophet,
“Quite simply the best horror writer of our generation, Joe Hill's masterful storytelling is on full display in NOS4A2. It is by turns terrifying and hilarious, horrifying and full of heart, and relentlessly compelling.”
by Library Journal (starred review),
“Fascinating and utterly engaging, this novel is sure to leave readers wanting more. One thing is certain, however. After reading this book, readers will never hear Christmas carols in quite the same way again.”
by The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia),
“[A] new take on the fantasy-horror genre...Highly recommended.”
by Booklist (starred review),
“[An] undeniably readable work.”
by Publishers Weekly,
“NOS4A2 is a brilliant exploration of classic and modern monsters and dark fantasies, all cut up, restitched and retooled....With this novel, riveting from beginning to end, Joe Hill has become a master of his craft.”
by Kirkus Reviews (starred review),
“Hill is so skillful that we don't know till the very end whether he'll get away with it....Hill's story is quite original and, for horror fans of a certain ironic bent, its an unqualified delight.”
by Harper Collins,
NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.
Charlie Manx burned a man to death in his black 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith, but that’s not the worst of it. Rumor has it that he kidnapped dozens of children, taking them to a place he calls “Christmasland.” The only child ever to escape was a very lucky girl named Victoria McQueen.
Vic has a gift — she can ride her bike through the Shorter Way bridge and she’ll come out the other side wherever she needs to be, even if it’s hundreds of miles away. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her ability; no one would understand.
When Charlie Manx finally dies after years in prison, his body disappears... after the autopsy. The police and media think someone stole it, but Vic knows the truth: Charlie Manx is on the road again... and he has her kid. And this time, Vic McQueen’s going after him...
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