First published in 2013
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
The Short Of It:
"NOS4A2" was an enthralling and utterly wacky fantasy-horror-fiction blend and I loved it!
The Long Of It:
Christmasland is a magical place populated with happy children who open presents every day, feast on cocoa and candy canes, and ride the Sleighcoaster to their heart's content. Sounds delightful, right?
Not exactly. Those kids just so happen to be kidnapped children who've literally had the soul sucked right out of them, possess mouths full of row upon row of hook-like teeth and play super-fun games like scissors-for-the-drifter.
Charles Talent Manx III is the creator of this veiled world where it's Christmas every day, and he has a very special 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith -- with the license place NOS4A2 -- that he uses to transport his children/victims to Christmasland.
While Charlie Manx uses his special talent for evil, Victoria McQueen, just 8 years old when the story opens, uses her unique gift for good: to locate missing items, like her mother's bracelet or the neighbor's cat. She rides her bike over the no-longer-in-existence Shorter Way Bridge and out the other side, where whatever she seeks will be -- no matter the actual distance. That's how Vic crosses paths with Manx the first time; she rides across her bridge in an anger-fueled fit looking for -- hoping for -- trouble and pops out at Manx's Sleigh House thousands of miles away in Colorado, a folly that nearly costs Vic her life.
Now Vic is a messed-up adult, plagued by memories of her childhood trips across the Shorter Way and her brush with Charlie Manx -- which were obviously hallucinations and coping mechanisms... right? She's been in and out of mental institutions and sought peace in drugs and alcohol to no avail. When Charlie Manx appears in her life once again, -- and whisks the person she holds most dear in the world off to Christmasland -- Vic must confront her past and call back the Shorter Way Bridge, because she may be the only person who has the power to stop Manx from continuing to kidnap and suck dry children for all eternity.
Joe Hill is such a talented writer. I loved the richly drawn characters in this novel, from Maggie, a extremely eclectic Scrabble champion librarian from Iowa, to despicable and disgusting Bing Partridge, Manx's sidekick. Hill's settings are vivid, he's a master of the written word, and he possesses a creative mind capable of thinking up all kinds of crazy and terrifying things -- just what a horror writer needs.
The book got off to a slow start for me, but once I got into the story I was hooked. It's a long book at almost 700 pages, and certainly some of that could've been trimmed off, but somehow it never really managed to feel draggy. A bonus is the wonderful illustrations throughout; I especially love the flyleaves! I saw that AMC is planning to turn "NOS4A2" into a TV show, and I will definitely be tuning in for that.
There were a couple fun library quotes in the book (obviously they came from the parts featuring my favorite character, Maggie the librarian) and I'll leave you with those:
"Vic smelled the vast vault filled with books before she saw it, because her eyes required time to adjust to the cavernous dark. She breathed deeply the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue and cleverness."
"No one looks to closely at a librarian. People are afraid of going blind from the glare of so much compressed wisdom."