Monday, December 9, 2013


Title/Author: N0S4A2 by Joe Hill.

Illustrations: Gabriel Rodriguez.

Genre:  Horror. Fantasy.

Publisher: William Morrow.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis:  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, takesher wherever she needs to go, whether it's across Massachussetts 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 N0S4A2 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.

My Thoughts:  It's difficult putting into words how much I loved this novel.  I finished reading N0S4A2 early July and have been trying to write this post since then.  While I could discuss this story forever, to convey all my emotions and thoughts into one post has been an extremely daunting task.  I kind of just want everyone who loves Horror, who loves dark fantasy, who simply loves a good story, to read this.

Joe Hill's newest novel centers around Victoria, a very real, sympathetic and engaging character.  The actions of her parents shape her emotionally.  Her mother is distant and sometimes a little too hard on her.  Her father and mother fight a lot and they can't seem to keep their relationship together.  Also what shapes Vic is her unusual gift.  She can find things and uses her bicycle as the tool to travel to where anything is located.  Her mother's bracelet, her friend's toy and even "trouble."  With a capital T and in this case, it rymes with C.  As in Charlie Manx.   Unfortunately, this trouble follows her around for the rest of her life.

The thing is, Victoria is not the only one who has certain gifts.  Mr. Manx does too. Unfortunately, he is a very dangerous and evil man. An encounter with this evil rips her innocence away from her and  changes her even further.
"It sounded like delusion until you remembered that people made the imaginary real all the time: taking the music they heard in their head and recording it, seeing a house in their imagination and building it.  Fantasy was always only a reality waiting to be switched on."
Victoria breaks my heart.  Her self worth and self esteem are so low, she doesn't feel worthy of the love of her boyfriend and father of her child, Louis, nor of her wonderful son, Wayne.  She self sabotages her relationships and when it finally dawned on me why, I felt sad enough to cry.
"She felt she had never loved him the way he deserved - and that he had always loved her more than she deserved."
Another issue that she struggles with is that she has convinced herself that her gift was all in her imagination and even when eerie things continue to plague her, she chalks it up to insanity and self medicates with alcohol.   In spite of her being damaged, Vic is one of the bravest characters I have encountered.  When Vic's family is endangered she has to comes to terms with her gift and what's been happening in her life.  It seemed to me that she used her bikes to race away from herself.  To escape.  She was afraid she was insane and also afraid she was not because it is hard to say which would be worse.

I also love Louis.  He is so endearing and breaks my heart as well.  He is embarrassed because he is obese and a simple man with a tow truck business and couldn't keep his relationship with Vic together.  He feels he failed her, his son and himself.  It's odd when you think more of a fictional character than the character thinks of himself.  I rooted for Louis and wanted him to find the hero in himself.  I wanted him to become the man he wanted to be for Vic and for Wayne.

One summer as she tries to put her life and her relationship with Wayne back together, they find an old Triumph in their rented summer home and they make it their project to fix it.  I love the metaphor of this plot device.  As she rebuilds the bike, she rebuilds her relationship with her son and her own sense of worth.  A triumph.  Figuratively and literally.  Capital T.

Many readers don't associate beautiful writing with Horror, but N0S4A2 is filled with lyrical prose. The way that Vic's love for her child is described, the details of small things like buildings and seasons and the way light looks through windows.  Writing should help you see ordinary things in an extraordinary way and Hill accomplishes this.
...she loved the smell of the road: ashpalt baking and soft in high July, dirt roads wtih their dust-and-pollen perfume in June, country lanes spicy with the odor of crushed leaves in October, the sand-and-salt small of the highway, so like an estuary in February.
The style of this novel is exceptionally unique as well.  Some chapters end in the middle of a thought, and it made me feel as if I was jumping through space and time with the character.   It is jarring and a bit confusing but makes perfect sense.  It lends itself to the story and events.  I also loved the little drawings in the book -- the cartoons, the notes, the computer screen.  They add clarity to the story and helped bring me into the world further.

N0S4A2 contains the simple concept of Good versus Evil, yet the nuances of this tale, how the story branches out and the depth and complexity of the characters are epic.  It has everything - action, the supernatural, horror, love and a strong solid ending.

To Wrap it Up:  I not only have a new Joe Hill favorite, but a new favorite Horror novel.  N0S4A2 is tragic and heartwrenching, but a beautiful and deeply emotional saga.



Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

This is a beautiful and perfect review, Pam! I didn't know about all the drawings, now I definitely have to get a physical copy of the book- although the audio version is unbelievably well narrated. I think Horror novels get overlooked too often, written off as gory or violent, but this is definitely one of those books that can turn people into fans of the genre. ;)

Jen | Book Den said...

Oh, I'm glad you finally wrote your review! I don't think I'll be able to write mine. I love your review. NOS4A2 is definitely a favorite of mine, too.

Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

It is on my holiday break list :) I actually have it in print!

Karen said...

Wow! you REALLY liked this one. That makes me happy!!!

Kayla Beck said...

I read this one a month or two ago, and I really enjoyed it. Joe Hill is just as talented of a writer as his daddy. However, it may have ruined Christmas for me a bit. :-D

Anonymous said...

I have been circling this book wondering if I should pick it up - sounds like YES! Great review :)

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