Review: N0S4R2 by Joe Hill

UK book cover of N0S4R2 by Joe Hill

While most other bloggers have signed off until after Christmas and left a cheerful message behind, I’m sat here alone at 11:35pm on Christmas Day writing about murderous child monsters and rapists. Who doesn’t want to be me right now!?

Plot summary: Young Victoria McQueen has a gift fpr finding things. All she has to do is ride her bike through the Shorter Way Bridge and she’ll come out wherever she needs to be… even if that’s hundreds of miles away. But it turns out she’s not the only one with a special ability.

There are others… like Charlie Manx, who takes children to Christmasland in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with its NOS4R2 vanity plate. Only by the time they get there his passengers have changed, utterly. They’ve become Charlie’s children; as unstoppable and insane as Manx himself.

Only one kid ever escaped Charlie Manx: Vic McQueen. But her first brush with Manx lit the fuse on a life-and-death battle of wills… a battle that explodes a quarter of a century later. Because Manx has taken Vic’s son. And Vic McQueen is going to get him back.

I have the utmost respect for Joe Hill for not even attempting to cash in on his father’s name. It would have been so easy for him to do, but ‘King’ isn’t featured anywhere on the cover of N0S4R2. Good for him (Later: I’ve now read his rants about The Hobbit film on Twitter and love him even more). To be honest, it’s almost irrelevant anyway, as this book is more than capable of standing on its own two feet.

Even the most cursory glance at this book cover will draw the gigantic-ass wreath to your attention. I thought this meant I should try my damndest to read this before Christmas, which I subsequently did. Turns out it’s really not important at all. Yes, Christmas does feature in the book but not in the way you’re thinking. In a way, it might actually be better to read it in July (which is when the story takes place anyway) as the entire point of the book is an unnatural, disjointed Christmas. I was reading about haunting Christmas songs playing constantly, but then looking up at my tree and my lights and wondering exactly what the problem is. Anyway, your choice. But if you own it, don’t put it off until next December!

So we’ve established when to read N0S4R2; now let’s move on to how. The answer is: slowly. Every page needs to be savoured for its uniqueness, odd charm and quirky plot. Yes, it is 650+ pages long (taking a page from his father’s book, clearly) but I swear they’ll rush past before you even know what happened. I read half of it in pretty much one sitting just because I didn’t want to stop reading.

It’s not a scary book in the slightest; there are occasions that are slightly creepy, but never more than that and never for long. I say this like it’s a disappointment, when it’s really not. I thought of it more like an odd dream – it doesn’t scare you, but you know there’s something not quite right. It does work perfectly, though. Everything slots together into a novel that stands out as being completely one-of-a-kind. It’s twisted, but fascinating.

Charles Manx is the perfect villain. He doesn’t look like a stereotypical baddie; instead he seems more like somebody you could meet on the street and not think anything of it (evil car aside). People like him exist and that’s far more worrying than any theoretical monster that lives under the bed. He genuinely believes that he’s doing the right thing and that the children he abducts need to be rescued. There are a lot of layers to him, so it’s difficult to see him as out-and-out evil. He’s more dangerous, somehow – those who truly believe often are.

The ending is absolutely perfect too. I wasn’t convinced at first, but then the narrative jumps a few months down the line and everything clicks into place. It makes sense and while it’s not what I wanted to happen, I wouldn’t change it. 

N0S4R2 is a very memorable book; I know I’ll be thinking about it for months to come. It’s a quirky story with certain ‘paranormal’ aspects, but the truly disturbing parts are the ‘real-world’ horrors – the serial rapist is described quite avidly, for a start. This book is truly brilliant and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 Visit Joe Hill here or find him on Twitter.

Comments

  1. fredamans says:

    Awesome review. Your gritty details gave me what I need to add this one to my wishlist. Sounds like my kind of book!

  2. Oooh, can't wait to start it. And guess what! I've just finished my Christmas present from Ellie and N0S4R2 is top of the pile. *does excited sitting-down dance.* Maybe I'll read a chapter or two before I go to bed.

  3. Laura says:

    I'm still somewhere near the beginning of this, not because I don't like it (I really like it!) but because I've been really crap at reading recently, basically! But I'm glad it stays, you know, awesome.

  4. Sarah says:

    I'm about 2/3 of the way through now. It's really good! Maybe not as good as Horns by him, but still really good. (Also, I'm reading an ARC and there are SO many typos and stuff that it makes me wish I had read the finalized version instead, I'm worried bigger things might be different. Oh well.)

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