This is a series of reviews of my favorite books published between 2010 and 2019.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (2013)
Charlie Manx is a psychic vampire who feeds on the youth and innocence of the children he ferrets away to his imaginary world of Christmasland, but he has an unlikely foe in Vic McQueen, a former alcoholic, when he kidnaps her son.
All Stephen King fans who live in fear of the day he stops churning out books can now relax because he has an heir–both literally and figuratively. I’ve enjoyed all of Joe Hill’s novels that I’ve read, but NOS4A2 is the first one where I thought he was actually channeling his father. In fact, I jokingly thought that maybe it was written by King himself using another pseudonym. Not only does it read like King, but it reads like King at his absolute best: one of those great big books that takes you by the throat and forces you to race through the pages just to find out what happens.
NOS4A2 has it all. There is an unlikely band of heroes headed by Vic McQueen, who is tough, flawed, and completely relatable. She has a rare ability to psychically travel to find lost things, but this ability has also messed her up, and it exposes her to Charlie Manx as a teenager, an encounter that puts him in jail and sets them up as bitter enemies. When Manx comes after her son, Vic must fight back, with only a lovable geek named Lou (her overweight ex and the boy’s father) and a librarian turned drug addict who shares the same psychic power on her side. Oh yeah, she also has a kickass motorcycle.
Speaking of Manx, he is one hell of a villain, oily and repulsive, stupid-evil and seemingly invincible. The kids he takes turn into monsters, really disturbing ones. The showdown between Vic and Manx in Christmasland should not be read late at night. We have to worry not only about the safety of Vic’s son Wayne, but also about his soul. Special children in jeopardy–another Stephen King trademark.
And there are so many shoutouts to King’s novels here. King fans already know that searching for connections between books is part of the fun of reading him. In NOS4A2, Hill references Mid-World of The Dark Tower series, Derry of It, and the True Knot of Doctor Sleep, while slipping in little references to The Stand, Christine, and Cujo. In some ways, this book comes off as the ultimate fan fiction, a love letter from father to son. (By the way, did Hill also sneak in shoutouts to contemporary writers David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman? I think so, and that would make sense, as all of them share a lot in common.)
Whether you’re a King fan or not, this is a great read, packed with terrific characters, real scares, and lots of suspense and action.