Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
NOS4A2 is Joe Hill’s third novel, following The Heart-Shaped Box and Horns. This novel is definitely Joe’s masterpiece. It shows me that this young man is now ready to take over his father’s (Stephen King) mantle when the time eventually comes.
At the center of the novel is Charlie Manx, who’s around 116 years old, but looks much younger due to the classic Rolls Royce Wraith he drives when searching for children. Though the evil car helped to destroy his family, it has also kept Manx looking like a middle-aged man, injecting him with vitality that strives on the maliciousness of his naughty deeds.
Victoria McQueen is Charlie’s nemesis.
Since she was a little girl and was given a Raleigh bicycle to ride around town on, her totem has been an old bridge that carries her to wherever she wants to go. And, it’s through this bridge that she first encounters Manx and the evil he perpetuates with his mysterious automobile.
Victoria, or Vic, barely survives her first encounter with the creature that appears in human form and whose sole mission is the taking of children to Christmasland. This is where kids will supposedly never experience unhappiness and everyday is like Christmas to them. Charlie Manx comes very close to killing Vic that first time out and makes the terrible mistake of going after her for revenge. You see Manx doesn’t like it when someone stands in his way. Because of the mistake, he gets caught by the police and spends the next two decades in prison.
Needless to say, Manx deteriorates during his stay in prison and eventually dies.
When his body is placed in the morgue and his heart removed, good old Manx somehow manages to come back to life and escape, taking with him a bone-crushing hammer that he plans to use on poor Victoria when he eventually catches her.
Reuniting with the Wraith, Charlie Manx begins to recuperate and once again grows young at heart. It’s his intent to teach Victoria, who’s now a woman with her own child, to stay out of other people’s business. Manx begins her lesson by kidnapping her only son, Wayne, and forcing her to come after him. She has to somehow get to her child before Manx and the car can do their damage to the young boy’s soul, and she’s determined to fight with no holds barred in order to save Wayne from this transformation. She even has a satchel full of explosives to blast Christmasland to kingdom come. This is definitely a lady with a mission, and even Rambo needs to stay out of her way as she hunts for Manx with extreme prejudice.
NOS4A2 surprised me with its originality. Joe Hill dug down deeply and came up with a brilliant new approach to the vampire myth. It’s not easy tackling a theme such as this and creating a totally new concept. I feel Joe did it with a strong degree of success. With regards to his dad, the apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Even better, Charles Manx and Vic are written and described with total believability. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Charlie wasn’t fashioned after someone Joe has met somewhere during his life’s journey. Also, the good and evil in both Charlie and Victoria pulsates right off the damn page. You find yourself drawn like a magnet to Manx and the way he smoothly entices you into his dark, evil world. Victoria McQueen, however, is hell on wheels, and you don’t mess with a mother and her baby cub.
The pacing of the story is average until the last 125 pages. Then, the brakes are off, and the story speeds forward to its hard-hitting conclusion. I enjoyed the way things were neatly wrapped up. It felt satisfying and complete.
Of course, Joe Hill pays homage to his family throughout the book. For me, it was like returning home after being away for decades. The old memories were stirred up and mixed with the new ones, making me unaware of which was which.
So, if you want a great horror novel to read, check out NOS4A2. This might just be the best horror novel of 2013. I won’t make that final call until I’ve read his dad’s Dr. Sleep and The Abominable by Dan Simmons.
Highly recommended! Order it here.