Saturday, March 16, 2013

An advance NOS4A2 review

Here's the publisher's 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, 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.

I managed to acquire an ARC of Joe Hill's new novel, NOS4A2 a few weeks back and promptly dived into it. I've been a fan of Hill's from day one, starting with his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, Heart Shaped Box, to Horns. Each and every outing Hill has proven he knows how to craft a great tale and inevitably the comparisons to his father have been numerous. Sure, we all know (now) that Hill's dad is Stephen King. A few of us knew before the general public and one of the reasons I admire and respect Joe outside of his writing was that he didn't rely on the King name to get published. He stood up on his own two feet and showed he can write, and write extremely well. 

Now, NOS4A2 is going to be the novel that everyone looks back at in 25 years and says, "This is where Hill broke out into the mainstream. This is the novel where Hill came into his own." I firmly believe that. This is a beast of a novel, coming in at 704 pages. It's epic, it's world-building, but it's also an intimate story about a mother. I'm pretty sure Hill knew the King comparisons would come even more heavily with the subject matter of this novel and rather than shy away from it he embraced it whole heartedly. There's even some nods to his dad's mythology, Mid-World and the Dark Tower universe. When Hill mentions a certain clown (in passing with a wink and a nod) from his dad's fiction, I let out a cheer and you will as well. Hill's world is familiar and his characters are real. They're familiar because some of us (myself included) grew up reading his dad's novels. King is a master at character development and Hill is proving he's as good, if not better, than his dad. One of the main differences, is where King peppers his fiction with pop culture references we all recognize and love, Hill peppers his fiction and NOS4A2 with his geek cred. Hill loves and knows his Joss Whedon, his Dr. Who, and any number of other geeky goodness.

Still, this isn't (and shouldn't be) a dad vs son issue, but it is, and will continue to be. Both can write, and both can tell a tale with astounding skill. 

Charlie Manx is one of the best crafted villains I've read in a very long time. Sure, he's the bad guy of NOS4A2, but Hill manages to go deeper than "he's a bad guy who does bad things", there are certain points, especially near the finale where Hill makes you feel some sympathy for Manx. And that's a skill many horror writers don't have these days. The villain is more than just a jumble of bad things, and Hill understands this and shows up Manx's past in such a way that, yes, you will feel sorry for the guy at certain points, even as he's kidnapping a child. 

Vic, or "the Brat", is a fully fleshed out character. She's damaged, she's lost, and she's human. And you're gonna feel for her during her journey in this novel. Guaranteed!

It's been two days since I read the last chapter of NOS4A2 and I still can't think of one single thing I didn't like about the book or the story. I really, honestly...can't. The best way I can describe reading and experiencing NOS4A2 is this - The first time I read IT back when I was 12 years old, that feeling of "YES!" and the first time you've fallen in love with the horror genre. how reading NOS4A2 was for me. Hands down. 

Hurry up, Mr. Hill, I'm ready for your next one! 

When NOS4A2 is released on April 30th, 2013, get this book. You'll fall in love with horror all over again.