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NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill
4.5
Book Name: NOS4R2 (UK) NOS4A2 (US)
Author: Joe Hill
Publisher(s): Gollancz (UK) William Morrow (US)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Horror / Fantasy / Thriller
Release Date: May 30, 2013 (UK) April 30, 2013 (US)

Come on down to Christmasland, where Charlie Manx is waiting; candy cane in one hand, bloody hammer in the other. NOS4R2 sees fantasy-horror whizz Joe Hill take on his biggest work yet – a novel that explores ideas of childhood loneliness, addiction, anger, depression and classic cars with a distinctive, psychotic twist.

Vic McQueen has a very special gift. She can find anything she wants. A quick bike ride through the Shorter Way Bridge and she’ll come out wherever she needs to be. Charlie Manx has been doing something similar for years. Many years. Except his goals aren’t nearly as innocent as Vic’s. Charlie likes to take kids for rides in his Rolls-Royce Wraith – he takes them to Christmasland. A place of Charlie’s own making. Somewhere children will be forever young. Forever innocent. Forever happy. And it keeps Charlie happy too. But when Charlie meets his match with a teenage Vic McQueen, it starts a feud that travels along the years, until Vic’s own son becomes Charlie’s next passenger to Christmasland.

NOS4R2 is the best horror novel I’ve read in the last couple of years and the best I’ve ever read from Joe Hill. Where Horns was a sometimes brutal, always dark and twisted ride through the heart of desire, NOS4R2 is a sprawling beast that travels along a timeline like the car of its title: there’s a destination in mind, but detours are likely. Hill’s experimental use of structure in NOS4R2 is something which could have been awkward and stilted in the hands of a lesser writer, but this is really superb stuff. Nothing is ever truly as it seems as Hill plays with the idea of place and time constantly; showing the reader pieces of the story from one side, and completing the scene from the other. It’s a daring move, but Hill manages to use it in such a way that NOS4R2 is always moving at a brisk pace, the plot consistently barrelling forward – and for a novel of well over 700 pages, it’s a testament to his skill.

The characters in NOS4R2 are at the absolute heart of the book. Hill has managed to create such fully-fleshed out protagonists and villains that it’s not a stretch to imagine them living their lives outside of the pages. In the first half of the novel, the timeline jumps regularly, but we’re never left at a loose end when it returns to each character. In Vic McQueen in particular, Hill has created a heroine that embodies everything which would exist in a real person who finds themselves in such a bizarre and horrifying situation – she’s got all the traits of reality, flaws and all. In Charlie Manx, Hill has created a villain that embodies a particular brand of evil – someone who firmly believes that the cruelty he lives for is necessary, good work. It makes him a terrifying antagonist and a character we’re never certain around. The novel is also littered with a host of side characters who feel equally as rounded; each with differing levels of importance to play in the story.

It would be equally as relevant to label NOS4R2 a fantasy or a thriller as much as it is a horror. The horror elements are definitely there, but not necessarily terror-inducing. They’re more of a sinister, creepy element to the thrilling plot Hill has managed to cook up. There are also a few references to other Joe Hill novels, as well as his comic series, Locke and Key. (And for those eagle-eyed enough to spot them, there are a few references to the works of Hill’s father, Stephen King)

NOS4R2 is a fantasy-horror novel that sees Joe Hill reach a literary level which not only sees him on par with the best works by other major horror authors, but in many ways transcends them. It’s a fine work that I’d urge any fan of horror, fantasy or thrillers to pick up. Where Horns was more of a slow-burning, single character-focused tale, NOS4R2 is epic horror at its finest.

Pick it up, give it a go and travel to Christmasland.

HO. HO. HO.

Reviewer’s Note: Thanks to Jon Weir from Gollancz for providing me with a review copy of NOS4R2. Sorry for the delay, Jon!

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Rating: 9.1/10 (8 votes cast)
NOS4R2 by Joe Hill, 9.1 out of 10 based on 8 ratings
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