Book Reviews

Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill – Stephen King’s Son Outdoes Him

For those who don’t know, “Joe Hill” is the oldest son of author Stephen King. This is the second book of his that I’ve read, and I have to say I enjoyed NOS4A2 more than I have any book by his father in recent years.

NOS4A2 is the story of two beings whose lives will intersect at some point in time. Victoria McQueen seems to have a sixth sense for finding things. However, she has a secret; when she rides her bicycle across an old covered bridge near her house, she always seems to end up where she needs to be to find what’s lost.

Charles Talent Manx may have been human at one time, but he isn’t any longer. He and his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith only come to the “real world” to bring children to a place he calls “Christmasland” where they are never sad or in pain. He sees what he is doing as saving them from a lifetime of misery at the hands of their parents.

Victoria doesn’t have a great life growing up, and she’s also searching for an escape. Her path leads her right to Charles Talent Manx and his Wraith. However, Victoria is resilient and manages to be the only child that escapes him. Manx is sent to jail and the Wraith disappears, for the time being.

The story is one of two worlds and two ways of looking at life. Where Manx sees only the bad side of everything, the real world is much more complicated. Like many children, Victoria has issues in her family, but that doesn’t mean she would be better without them. Manx thinks he is seeing the children’s future, but he’s not seeing the whole picture, just one of many possibilities. Joe Hill crafts a story that is full of tension and suspense as the two engage in a battle of the wills throughout Victoria’s life.

The characters are wonderful. Victoria has many dimensions to her. Events in her past have left her messed up, but she is trying to be a different person. It’s not like after she escapes Manx she meets the love of her life and lives happily ever after. She’s left with scars that lead to substance abuse and other issues that make it hard for her to live. It also hampers her when she begins to argue that Manx is back. He supposedly died in prison, but since he was no longer human, that’s not exactly the case.

The pace is great. There is a build-up to Victoria’s first confrontation with Manx as a child, and when it’s over I wondered what the rest of the book was going to be about. Hill manages to craft a story of flawed people we can root for as well as creating a suspenseful and entertaining read. Every character has a place and a point and it’s a read you can’t gloss over or skip over parts. All of the “good” characters had flaws and were endearing at the same time. Hill writes so well and shifts perspective so we see how the characters see themselves as well as how others see them. I thought this was especially well done between Victoria and Lou, her husband, who loves her no matter what.

I really enjoyed NOS4A2. It was a lot of fun to read and reminded me of when I read Stephen King’s books as a kid myself. If you’ve enjoyed those types of books in the past, it’s definitely worth your time to read this one.

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