Review

Book Review: NOS4R2

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Blurb

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.

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At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.06 out of 5

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Prologue
Nurse Thornton dropped into the long-term-care ward a little before eight with a hot bag of blood for Charlie Manx.
Story
The Brat was eight years old the first time she rode over the covered bridge that crossed the distance between Lost and Found.

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Quick note before I start – the copy I read is the UK edition (as that is where I live) hence the spelling and book cover ‘NOS4R2.’ I say this only because the book title was changed to match the pronunciation of it based on the country of purchase. So, while we Brits get ‘NOS4R2’ with our supposedly high-brow Queen’s English, American’s get ‘NOS4A2.’ The blurb is from the Americanised version. Just in case you were wondering.

I don’t normally enjoy horror stories (I’ve previously mentioned what a wuss I am) but I’d read ‘Horns’ by Joe Hill and really enjoyed it, although I don’t know if it truly comes under the ‘horror’ genre. I also saw the movie which stars Daniel Radcliffe but it wasn’t quite as good as the book and yes, it was weird watching Harry Potter having The Sex.

This isn’t a ‘Horns’ review as I read it before I started to force my opinions share my thoughts on the books I read but I really enjoyed its strange mix of creepiness and human emotion and the message that the spirit of humanity perseveres against all odds and you know what? I enjoyed this one more. It is a creepy book but, despite the blurb, it is more supernatural creepy and not realistic child kidnap creepy.

In all the teaching courses that exist they inform their students that their protagonist needs to have danger and this needs to be pressing and immediate. There is nothing more pressing or immediate than a character who happens to be a mother whose child is under threat. This is not a criticism, especially not here, as you can relate to Vic’s desperation as she goes to hell (quite literally) for her son.

What I was particularly pleased by is that, unlike some works of fiction where the hero remains untouched despite trauma, our hero Vic is incredibly and irreversibly damaged. Within the story her experiences as a child have done some permanent harm resulting in a character who develops alcoholism, a penchant for arson and Schizophrenic type symptoms which result in her eventual sectioning. This being a horror story we know the voices she hears aren’t indications of any relating to her mental health but are something far more sinister.

Vic is flawed and at times we don’t like her but we don’t need to like her. We need to understand her and root for her and I found that I genuinely did on both fronts.

The supporting characters never feel like they suffer either and are just as fleshed out as Vic. Each one of them earns their place in the story, my favourites being Maggie, a librarian with a mystical gift of her own and Lou, Vic’s kindly ex-partner and father of their son. For a book of its size (about 689 pages) the plot races through and nothing feels like it’s been inserted for padding purposes and each scene in this story feels like it exists for a reason. Well almost…

My only gripe (I cannot be me without a gripe) is the epilogue. Sadly, for me this felt a little ‘tacked on’ and didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. In the Author’s Note it was mentioned how the original epilogue wasn’t liked and so was re-written with what is now the published version. From a personal perspective, it would be interesting to see what that original looked like. Stay past the Author’s Note for the stinger (aka the end credits scene in movies), it’s worth it.

All in all, I really liked ‘NOS4R2’ in all its unsettling, disturbing glory. The characters are interesting and well developed, the storyline is engaging and creepy and the writing is sharp.

Which brings me to that last bit. It could have been incredibly easy for the author to obtain success by throwing his father’s name into the publishing ring. If you’re sending off a manuscript, which is a horror manuscript by the way, you could easily say, “oh my pen name will be my birth name. That would be ‘Joe King’. The King of Horror himself, Stephen King, is my dad. So, publish this, won’t you?”

I must state though, that Joe Hill has a natural writing talent even if it does at times seem to be a similar style to his dads. Ultimately he originally hid the family connection so that he would get published on his own merits. I find this commendable, I really do, because when you have a golden key to open doors it must be hard to not just take it.

Of course, by the time a few books had been published most people had made the connection and he began to make public appearances. He didn’t do this initially because, well because…

SK

Lots of ‘stuff’ gets passed down the genes.

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4 Star

10 thoughts on “Book Review: NOS4R2

  1. I read this one a few years ago, so i don’t remember how it actually ended (the epilogue), but overall i really liked it. It’s the sort of horror i used to be mad about when i was a teen, and made me pretty nostalgic 😀

    I’m glad this was the first book i read by Joe Hill, cuz i did not like Horns at all. But now i still feel like there’s hope for his other books 😀

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did enjoy Horns but definitely preferred this one! I think I need to read Heart Shaped Box next but part of me is waiting until the more ‘appropriate’ months i.e. October/ November just to try and scare the pants off myself!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome review Gerry! I’ve been pondering my first Joe Hill read since I’ve read his fantastic Locke & Key graphic novels, and I’ve settled for the Heart-Shaped Box, since I already have it, but this one will be my second one! 😉 If you love his writing, check out Locke & Key, it’s amazing! I haven’t read his novels so can’t really compare, but it was sooo good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I didn’t know Locke and Key was Joe Hill, I’m definitely going to take a look into that now as I quite like his storytelling and I’m happy to read anything he’s done. I’ve not read Heart Shaped Box yet but it sounds sufficiently creepy! Would be good to know what you think!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh, so is this the book of the movie where Daniel Radcliffe goes nekkid?! Did not know that…. 😱

    Also, excellent review! It’s so great to hear that a book didn’t have any unnecessary elements (minus the epilogue of course) and that the supporting characters were all fleshed out! That in of itself is a huge success; not to mention, I didn’t know this was the son of Stephen King, so that’s pretty intriguing. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This one isn’t but ‘Horns’ is the one which has Daniel Radcliffe. It’s very strange seeing him in that role! Horns is actually a good book, the movie is also good but isn’t as detailed or as nuanced.

      I love me my supporting characters. Sometimes I love them more than the main ones! Yep, he kept the family connection pretty quiet when he came out though and when he was trying to get published because he didn’t want people thinking he only got published because of the ‘Stephen King is my dad thing.’ I’m not too sure I would have that level of dignity! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same, supporting characters are the best! I think MCs are often the blank slates and supporting characters are the colors surrounding them, so I end up not enjoying the MCs as much. 🙂

        And yes, I definitely would’ve been conflicted about publishing without using any boost I could get, so huge kudos to the author. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I did read this last October (I’ve been holding onto the review for a while!) as I quite like reading creepy ones in that month, very suited! Would be good to see what you think. I do think it’s commendable that he didn’t use the easy route and wanted to get there on his own, it must feel more worthwhile!

      Liked by 1 person

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