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From the publisher:
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.
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.
The beginning was confusing and tough to follow, because it doesn't just discuss Vic and Manx, but several other minor characters, and the story sets itself up in a strange way-- Manx in a coma, Vic as a child, and Bing Partridge before we find out who he is. There was such a lack of connection between the early chapters that I wasn't initially sure how I would feel about the book.
Needless to say, I got over my apprehension very quickly and am very glad I did. Joe Hill does a fantastic job bringing everything together, and doing so in a way that seems both natural for the story progression and keeps the reader entertained and interested in what's going on. NOS4A2 is a compelling, suspenseful read that kept me guessing. I didn't know what would happen with Vic and her family till the final pages, whether they would defeat Charles Manx and save the children of Christmasland, or if they would become the next victims of his.
Hill did a great job adding different elements of fantasy and science fiction into this horror novel, incorporating a concept of alternate dimensions and traveling between worlds. That's not to say that I would want to visit Christmasland, but I think the idea of some people being able to visit inscapes and get away from reality is an interesting one, and it'd be interesting to take a look at some of the research and topics that Hill looked into when putting this into his story.
Not only does Joe Hill add a fantasy element to his work, he does so in a way that makes it almost compatible with reality. Imagine you can travel through an inscape in your mind. How do you think people would react if/when they found out? Chances are, you would end up undergoing intense psychiatric observation. Vic herself developed a defense mechanism against her visits through the covered bridge by making up stories to explain where she found the missing objects, to deny to herself the existence of the bridge that led her to the objects. She sought medical help and was taking medications to restore her sanity, which is what most people would do if they had the same experiences she did. It makes the story so much more relatable, particularly events and experiences that are clearly unrealistic and would almost never happen (because who knows, maybe they do exist).
I rarely give out 5 star reviews, reserving them for books I am more likely to re-read and recommend to other people, but Joe Hill's NOS4A2 is deserving of this rating, and I recommend it to everyone who can handle the occasional gruesome scene or inappropriate language.