Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a thriller, a prolonged suspension of disbelief, and a nightmare of familiar things turned grim. Charlie Manx, a seemingly soulless individual responsible for the disappearances of dozens of children, has a problem. He needs some help tending to Christmasland, the amusement park of winter delights, year-round! A place of terrifying delights where lost children will be happy…forever. The only thing in his way is a the troubled but determined Vic McQueen, a woman whose one afternoon encounter with Charlie Manx as a teenager has left fingerprints on every part of her life.
Charlie Manx and Victoria McQueen have something in common, a gift for finding places that aren’t on the map. Covered bridges, magical cars, and Scrabble tiles all play a part in the strange world of NOS4A2. Referred to as “inscapes,” these rarely attainable places will resonate with fans of Joe Hill’s other works, with sly allusions to Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, and Locke and Key.
This novel definitely fulfilled my need for creepiness. The character of Charlie Manx and his wretched Rolls-Royce Wraith will haunt you days after finishing this macabre story. Victoria McQueen is an interesting hero — half-mad from her unusual abilities, heartbroken by a hard life — who sometimes makes it hard for us to root for her. Ultimately, we see the various ways disappointment and disconnection have shaped her (along with the occasional phone calls from dead children) and how she never stops trying to make her wrongs right.
I really enjoyed this novel, and my admiration for Joe Hill grows stronger with each new book.