Book name: Nos4A2
Author: Joe Hill
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 2014
Star Rating: 4/5
Joe Hill’s pedigree as a writer speaks for itself. He’s had Bram Stoker, British Fantasy and Eisner Awards for his fiction.
With that in mind, I always feel excited about starting any Joe Hill book, whether as a first-ever read or in order to review it here at John C Adams Reviews.
Charles Talent Manx is a serial killer who lures his victims into his Rolls Royce Wraith with promises of Christmasland. He’s stolen the lives of so many children that way.
Vic McQueen enjoys riding her bike and being out of the house whenever her parents are arguing. In the school holidays, she frequently combines the two for long periods. On one of these excursions, worrying about a bracelet her mother lost during a weekend trip to their summer home by the lake, Vic encounters a broken-down covered bridge.
She cycles inside, remembering it is called the Shorter Way, and emerges in an entirely different place. She’s right back at the diner where her family stopped for lunch. The owner has her mother’s lost bracelet.
Over the years that follow, Vic finds all manner of lost items using the covered bridge. She is transported as far away as Here, Iowa, where she meets Maggie, a young librarian aware of her special ability and with a unique talent of her own: reading the future in Scrabble keys.
Maggie warns Vic not to use her bike to go looking for Charles Manx. Vic does just the opposite of course. Because of her bike she is able to escape and raise the alarm. Manx is captured.
As Vic grows up, she convinces herself that her trips aren’t real. She finds other explanations that are more rational and begins to believe that her trips aren’t real. She forgets about them. She still hears the children lost in Christmasland calling her, even though no one else can hear the phone ring.
However, forgetting her bike and her special ability to travel through the Shorter Way Bridge leaves Vic vulnerable. When Manx escapes from prison years later and comes to snatch her son, she will need those memories of the bridge to rescue him.
NOS4A2 is a long book at just shy of seven-hundred pages and it covers years of narrative time. Vic is first a child at risk from Manx and then a parent whose child is the one being snatched. One of the key themes of the book, and I loved this about it because it is so true, was that adults and children see the world in entirely different ways because children are more open minded. This means that children are, in a way that adults don’t always appreciate, better able to defend themselves from trouble.
Vic was a brave and entirely likeable character. The reader knows that she is correct about her special abilities and about the fact that the children are still alive in some way and trapped in Christmasland. She is the ultimate reliable narrator, in contrast to the FBI and others who doubt her mental health.
NOS4A2 had a particular ending that might be thought of as a brave choice. I struggled with it, even with the rewriting of the last fifteen pages. Joe Hill was candid enough to admit this had been suggested by his mother, who read the ending and advised that it needed some help along because it ‘wouldn’t do’.
I love Joe Hill’s writing style and how dark his fiction is. A serial killer snatching children away to Christmasland and keeping them there, drained of their vitality is about as dark as it gets. This was a brilliant horror novel, and I can’t recommend NOS4A2 highly enough.
Thank you for reading my review of NOS4A2.
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