After reading Horns, I had huge expectations for Joe Hill’s next book. His next novel couldn’t come fast enough for my liking and as the days, weeks and months went by, the memory of Horns just grew and grew in my mind becoming better and better.
And yet, there was no word on a new novel by Hill.
Then, finally, I heard rumblings that a new novel was headed our way. At long last, I thought, I can finally read the NEXT Joe Hill novel.
And so it was that I eagerly put the novel on reserve at my local library and then proceeded to check back on my hold list every couple of days to see if maybe, just maybe, it had entered the system yet and if it might be on its way to me. Finally, that glorious day arrived and I eagerly headed over to the library to pick it up, only to be pleasantly surprised that Hill’s latest novel was thicker than his first two. The close to doubling in size of his output from Horns to NOS4A2 quickly made me forgive Hill for making me wait so long for a new novel and that much more eager to lose myself once again inside the pages of his novel.
With those kind of expectations, it’s hard for any book to live up to them. And while I can say that NOS4A2 isn’t the same overall experience that Horns was, I can say that the novel was equally impressive and just as enjoyable.
Young Victoria McQueen (known to her friends as Vic, to her father as the Brat) has a knack for finding lost things. Using her bicycle, she can cross a magic bridge that helps her relocate lost things — from a valued piece of jewelry for her mother to a missing photograph. But it’s one of her last rides across the bridge that Vic is connected to the Charles Manx. Manx kidnaps children and with the help of his assistant, sends them off to Christmasland. Vic helps bring Manx to justice, but at a huge price. She is haunted by the voices of the children that Manx has helped take the ride to Christmasland via phone calls.
Vic is able to keep the phone calls at bay by creating a series of illustrated children’s novels called Search Engine. The huge advances from each one help set her up for a better life for her son and the father of her child. But haunted by the voices, Vic can’t get away and her life takes a turn for the worst. Meanwhile, Manx apparently died in prison and his body disappears.
It isn’t long before the two are on a collision course and set to finish the business they began many years before.
In many ways, NOS4A2 reminds me of some of the vintage novels of Hill’s father, Stephen King. There is an unexplained evil and the focus of the novel is a descent into madness of trying to deal with it. It would be easy to say the novel brings back memories of one of King’s best novels, The Shining but that would sell both novels short.
NOS4A2 is a character study of Vic and her battle with the evil that is Manx. Hill wisely doesn’t explore what it is that drives Manx to his evil deeds and the novel is better for it. The long burn of Vic and the toll her special power takes on not only her but those around her is one of the novel’s biggest selling points and one that will keep you going for much of the close to 700 pages that make up this novel.
And while it’s not quite as page-turning, lose-sleep-over-the-book as Horns was, NOS4A2 is just as solid a novel and one more reason to put Joe Hill on that special list of authors that I will eagerly pick up and read anything he writes.