NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and the resurgence of good horror literature – A review
In horror fiction today all you see is angst ridden vampire ans werewolf sex symbols and zombies galore. I mean what happened to the horror genre. Vampires and werewolves “excuse the pun” had a lot of teeth back in the old days. In folklore people were actually afraid to go out at night, especially if you lived near a forest or a cemetery, for they were in fear of imposing attacks. I mean there were viscous soulless creatures that only wanted your head on a platter with an apple shoved in you mouth. what happened ?? why have we Disneyfied them like the Grimm’s fairy tales of past.
Zombies on the other hand are a cool monster but are used to death, mostly to express human frailty during a survival situation. That (and forgive me for saying this) but zombies a really stupid in a literal sense, the only have one basic carnal craving and that is hunger. Come on have we become so lazy at writing that a simple dumb creature is all that we could come up with?? What happened to super-smart vile creatures that wanted to control us or use us against our will for one reason or another. Creatures that were as smart and more powerful than us., like the monsters of old that I mentioned above,or the malevolent god like alien creatures from H P Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos , the human like vampire creatures in I am Legend by Richard Matherson which was the real inspiration for zombies of today as stated by George Romero, or best yet A monster disguised as a clown enticing young children in the sewers and eating them, or an invasive alien life form that either sees us as food or an incubator.
I feel horror today has gone to the dogs. We PG13 everything into a one size fits all box that is blander than beige. Gone are the days of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz , Richard Matherson and their kind, what I would call the real horror writers. Writers who I grew up with reading in my room at night with the nightlight on unable to sleep because either I was too scared or the book was to damn good to put down. I miss these times and yearn for them again.
Alas like a phoenix rising out of the ashes of it’s former self, a new bird in horror literature has risen by the name of Joe Hill. Let me be honest, I am a huge fan of Joe Hill for quite some time. I have read all his books from 20th century ghost stories, Heart Shaped Box, Horns and the award winning Locke and Key comic series. So when I heard that NOS4A2 was coming out I was like a kid a Christmas waiting to get his presents from under the tree. The day NOS4A2 was realized, I was down at my local bookstore with bells on my toes to get my copy. And Believe me it was well worth the wait.
Here is the basic synopsis of NOS4A2,
Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.
Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie”s twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.
And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble . . . and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.
That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie”s unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.
But Charlie Manx hasn”t stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won”t slow down until he”s taken his revenge. He”s after something very special-something Vic can never replace.
As a life-and-death battle of wills builds-her magic pitted against his-Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all . . . or die trying.
After reading Nos4A2, I enjoyed it so much that I was going to reread it again. Joe Hill is a wonderful writer and with each book he gets better and better, like good quality aged scotch. His character development is fanominal. He creates characters with real personalities that are deep and emotional,and that you can really connect with. Charlie Manx is a excellent antagonist, full of contempt and malice yet strangely beveling his way is right. Add in Bing the Gas Man and you get evil personified, just like the old horror villains I so long for.
Then there was Maggie and her plight, Joe Hill really made you feel sorry for her even though she was a secondary character. It also gave you a deeper understanding into Victoria and why she acted the way she did and what effects her creative powers had over her, both positively and negatively.
Also there was big hearted Lou, who easily one of my favorite characters, the ultimate biker come comic fan boy, who I can totally relate to.
Joe also made you feel right in the middle of it with the descriptions of his environments, the old bridge, the library and of course Christmasland, The eeriest amusement park this side of Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (even took me for a loop.)
What is also really great about NOS4A2, is also the little nuggets strewn through out the novel. I mean you really have to read this book cover to cover to catch everything. Add in the amazing artwork and illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez who dose all the art work for the Locke and Key comic book series that Joe Hill also created and this just makes this an even more amazing book. The only thing that I am mad at is the fact that I wasn’t able to get my hands on the Subterranean Press Limited edition with even more exciting goodies (like color prints, ect), AUGG!!!. Like I read from a tweet that Joe Hill sent, “Your experience of the book will vary depending on whether you do the audiobook, the hardcover, the limited, or the eBook. How could it not?” he also wrote “Yeah, hardcovers are totally content delivery machines – but they’re a different form than an eReader and offer different possibilities.” so at least I am happy that I got the hardcover, but believe me any copy of NOS4A2 is great. It is a really really good story, that is bringing Horror literature back to it’s roots.
I am excitedly anticipating to see what Joe Hill has in the future coming out,and am happy to say that I am a huge fan of his work, and to thank him for taking me back to the wonderful world of horror novels that I grew up with. So When you get the chance go out and grab a copy of NOS4A2 today, and like Charley says ” Have a Merry Christmas from Christmasland”.
For further reading you should defiantly check out check out these other works by Joe Hill
and check out his websites, for lots of cool and interesting things