NOS4A2 is Joe Hill’s third published full length novel. It is a masterpiece of horror and drama. This weekend, I tried to give my husband a synopsis. Once again it didn’t turn out well so I will just let Goodreads do that for me: “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…”
I’m not going to spoil anything because you should read this book now. I will give you one warning, though. Charlie Manx goes after children. For some people, that will make this a tough book to read. But, if you can get past the subject matter, this really is a story that will keep your heart pounding.
I’ve read Joe’s previous two novels and they were also great. I really felt like he had a different voice than his father. NOS4A2 takes it to another level, though. He is starting to hit his writing stride and I’m happy to be able to follow him. One thing that I loved about this book was that he gave nods to his father throughout (I haven’t noticed that he’s done this before and I believe it has to be intentional.) He took characteristics / themes from King’s novels and twisted to make them his own. Just a few examples:
- The biggest comparison is probably to IT. Kids and a disturbed man. Seriously can keep you up at night.
- A car that has special powers. Manx has a Rolls Royce that is tied to his power. Christine had a mind of her own.
- St. Bernards (Cujo?) – Vic’s son’s dog is a St. Bernard named Hooper.
- Young boy as a major character who has to deal with the crazy adults around him. Danny in the Shining. Jake in the Dark Tower series. Wayne in NOS4A2.
- Addicted parent – Jack in the Shining. Vic in NOS4A2.
- Crazy kids. Children of the Corn vs. the kids of Christmasland
There are many more but I won’t bore you with them. I would love to examine both King and Hill’s writing and how their novels reflect their personal relationships. In the acknowledgements, Joe gives a lot of credit to his mother for the finished product (specifically the final chapter). She is also a writer and a huge influence for him. But, it’s this quote – about his dad – that sticks with me: “In between the beginning and ending of the work, I went for a motorcycle ride with my dad. He rode his Harley; I took my Triumph. He told me he liked my bike, even if the engine did remind him of a sewing machine. That’s a Harley snob for you. It was a happy ride, following him along his back roads with the sun on my shoulders. I guess I have been cruising his back roads my whole life. I don’t regret it.”
5/5 stars and one of my favorites this year. I hope Joe Hill continues to write his stories for a long, long time.