NOS4R2 aka NOS4A2, by Joe Hill: Family Tradition

NOS4R2 Joe Hill Carrying on a family tradition

Had it not been my birthday, I never would have read NOS4R2 by Joe Hill. Firstly, because I’d never heard of it and secondly, because I’d never heard of him. But there is a family tradition in the Smith household. Every year on my birthday, my daughter buys me the latest Stephen King novel. It is a nice tradition as I am a rabid King fan and, thus far, the master has never failed to enthral me with his stories.

The tradition had fallen a bit behind. The last few years have been fragmented. Divorce, or as I liked to phrase it at the time, running away from home, injury; near death; early retirement; job losses; new life choices; and a new job have all interrupted the King tradition.

This year, though, found a new author’s offering being placed in my hands on the day of my birth (actually the day before as I was unavailable on the real day). As Megs, my daughter, and Max, her significant other, presented the massive tome to me, she explained that Joe Hill was not just any writer, he was the offspring of Stephen and Tabitha King. She’d read good things about the book and as I’d already purchased the latest King book, via Kindle, this was her solution.

There is an old adage that states: “An acorn never falls far from the tree.” In author Joe Hill’s case, this is obviously true. I can honestly say that I have not been this excited by a new author since I first discovered this writer’s father, Stephen King, back in 1979.

The book was The Stand and it is still my favourite King book. I still re-read it and still enjoy the hell out of it. This book was the first one that had characters I could relate to, like, and recognise; even the baddies struck a chord. You were able to empathise and understand their actions. They seemed real.

The Stand

Joe Hill (I know, you’re thinking: “Geeze, it took you over 300 words to get to the guy. Hurry up, already!”) has that same knack of making his characters understandable, relatable, and you can connect.

The other ability he has is that his words and story move so quickly that they seem to scream along the pages. Like his father’s books, I literally could not put the story down until I had finished it. Although I did have to read it in bits and pieces over the weekend, as I write the most myself on those two days for the paper I work for. I got the book on Friday the 20th of September and finished it on Sunday the 22nd of September.

At 698 pages, it is not a small literary effort. It is a massive bit of work that was addictive from the first page.  Joe Hill is carrying on the family tradition of superlative writing combined with a breakneck pace that thrills and entertains.

The story is, in essence, an ensemble piece that really focusses around five characters: Charles Talent Manx – whom we meet first in the story; Victoria ‘Vic‘ aka “the Brat” McQueen – whom we meet next; Bing Partridge – the next player we bump into; Maggie the librarian and her special Scrabble tiles,  Louis “Lou” Carmody – the fifth member of this saga; and finally Wayne Carmody – product of Lou and Vic’s union.

There are other peripheral characters who flit in and out of the story, but although important in their own way, they are too distracting to include in  a review.

At the start of the book Charles Talent Manx is in a coma. He is a very evil man who is very old and should, by all rights, be dead. Vic is a girl who rides her Raleigh Tuff Burner bicycle to places much further than usual with the aid of a decrepit old covered bridge called the “Shorter Way Bridge.”

With her bike and the bridge, she meets Maggie and she finds “things.”

She learns from the librarian that her ability to travel and find lost items really has nothing to do with the bike or the bridge, she has something in her that allows her to do these things. But the ability is aided by the bike. This ability also costs. Vic pays a price for her trips, just as Maggie pays for her secret tile knowledge.

Manx wakes from his coma and resumes his evil ways with the help of his old partner in crime Bing. The two abduct children and take them to an imaginary place called Christmasland. Both men are murderers, but Manx kills and collects souls with the help of a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith.

Vic, Maggie, and Manx all share the same ability. They can create a reality that parallels the real world and they all have a device to help them. When Vic found Manx when she was younger, she defeated him and in the process lost her bike. She is saved, partially, by Lou Carmody and they become a couple.

Years later, after Manx returns, she must re-learn how to find the Shorter Way Bridge so she can save her son who has been taken by Bing and Manx.

Joe Hill has taken the genre of horror and revitalised it. NOS4A2, or NOS4R2 in England, is Hill’s third novel and apart from bearing a striking resemblance to his famous father, he has taken onboard all the things that work in the world of horror.

But, Hill has his own voice. There are areas of his work that seems vaguely familiar, but, not in a bad way. It is more in the way of reassurance. His writing says: “Look, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing from a master. Who am I to turn my back on it?”

I agree.

NOS4R2/NOS4A2 by Joe Hill is an excellent entertaining bit of literary magic. He has kept up the family tradition of simultaneously scaring the pants off of his reader while allowing them to really care about all the players. I have discovered a new “favourite author” and will have to make room in my bulging bookcase for more of his work.

This is a real 5 out of 5 star read.

Joe Hill carrying on the family tradition