28
Feb
18

Goodreads Review: NOS4A2

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NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, NOS4A2. I will miss you so, now that our time is done.

I have to say, I enjoyed this immensely; I came to it with a bit of trepidation, motivated mostly by curiosity, given that the author is Stephen King’s son. Snatched up alongside Heart-Shaped Box, I think NOS4A2 must now take its place amongst my favorite books. Whatever magic King found in his own youth could quite possibly be genetic, as it shines out in his son’s work as well.

The basics are easy enough: Vic McQueen (known to her father as “The Brat”) goes looking for trouble, and finds it, in the form of Charles Talent Manx. Vic has a knack for finding things; gifted with psychic abilities that draw her to the place where she can find what she wants most – so long as she is astride her favorite bike, at least – she’s found bracelets, a lost kitten and other objects. This time, it puts her in the hands of a psychotic who is also capable of traveling hidden roads. Manx – and his car, a vintage Rolls Royce with the ironic license plate of “NOS4A2” (say it phonetically) – has a habit of kidnapping children, draining whatever it is that makes them human, and depositing them in Christmasland, a wonderful amusement park where the fun (often in the form of games like scissors-for-the-drifter or bite-the-smallest) never ends. Besting Manx – with the assistance of an overweight bike mechanic and a few onlookers at the local general store – Vic proves the only victim to ever escape that fate.

Twenty years later, Manx is back. The years have taken their toll on Vic, and the psychic damage incurred by her too-frequent reality-bending trips through the “Shorter Way” on her bike have left her broken, half-psychotic, and barely able to care for herself, let alone her lover and son. When Manx steps in to take her child as vengeance, Vic has to rediscover her childhood talent to bring him back… before Wayne joins the other monstrous children in Christmasland.

All in all, a remarkable book, entertaining on multiple levels. The dialogue is spot-on, from Manx’s creepy (and vaguely bigoted) Southern Gentleman style to Tabitha (the FBI agent helping to look for Wayne)’s no-nonsense geek-girl authority. The characters are all entertaining and compelling, leaving the reader with definite ties towards each (and emitting a silent cheer each time one gets their just rewards, or mourning when things end poorly.)

What I found most interesting about the book were the callbacks – both deliberate statements and in general tone – to some of King’s work. This was perhaps made more obvious to me by my reading of Doctor Sleep not long before, but in many ways the two novels seem to have some mirrored themes… but while I felt Doctor Sleep missed a few boats and was entirely too tidy, NOS4A2 chimes properly. The pain of growing up and the sacrifices we have to make during the process; the loss of childhood wonder (and what too much of that wonder can do); the destruction of innocence and the consequences it holds later in life; growing to understand your parents, even if you can’t forgive them. All of those, plus the typical “we have to pretend this isn’t in any way autobiographical, so we’ll wrap it up in a story about psychic powers and freaky vampire-things!” remind this reader strongly of early King, and do it well. The children of Christmasland, and the disturbing thoughts they bring to mind – especially the discussion regarding “pure fun” essentially being “pure evil” – are some of the best “vampires” I’ve seen lately, and Manx and Bing make suitably gruesome antagonists (all the more so because they truly believe themselves to be doing good.)

Overall, I’d recommend the book to anyone who has a taste for horror but has been sadly starved of late, old-school King fans, someone looking for vampire themes without the glitter, and anyone who read Doctor Sleep and liked the ideas – child psychic atoning for the sins of the father and the self – but didn’t care for the execution.

View all my reviews

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