Monday 24 March 2014

Devouring Books: NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

"He had long accepted that everyone had his own world inside, each as real as the communal world shared by all but impossible for others to access."

I'm having a really hard time even knowing where to begin writing about NOS4R2 (or, NOS4A2, if you're an American) because I liked it very very much, even though it took me about 4 months to read (or, I at least read it over 4 months), and that's always difficult to write about; but ALSO I want to go through the whole review without mentioning the Stephen King connection but how is that going to be possible? HAVE WE MET?*

In fact, I'm going to bring up the Stephen King thing now so we get it out of the way and no one feels awkward. SO- in case you didn't know, Joe Hill is Stephen King's son (SURPRISE! Time to leave that rock, kids). Also in case you didn't know, I kind of have a vague interest in Stephen King's work, and that meant that, at least to begin with, it was almost impossible for me to read this without comparing it to King. I hated myself for doing it, and I constantly reminded myself that THEY ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON and also SHHHH, brain. 

But then something weird happened, and my brain stopped going 'Stephen King is his DAD!' every 5 minutes, and the entire credit for that goes to the book itself. It's just so. Good. Literally, the better it got, the less I thought of anything in the outside world and just got completely sucked into the world of Vic and Lou and Charles Manx, where bad things often happen, and sometimes the demons win, however much you don't want them to. But we'll get to that.**

So, NOS4R2. There's a LOT of story here, as you might expect for a book with nearly 700 pages, and it's definitely impossible to sum up in a paragraph or two. But here goes: It's basically the story of Vic McQueen and her ability to find lost things, about the way she grows up and the challenges she faces as an adult. It's also the story of Charles Manx, a genuinely chilling villain who genuinely believes that he's doing the right thing when he kidnaps children and forces lets them live in a place where it's eternally Christmas. Only, really really scary Christmas.

That's kind of what the book's about, but it's also about having amazing action sequences, combined with just the right amount of emotion and character development and genuinely scary stuff. In Hanna's review, she says that it's probably better to read in the summer rather than actually AT Christmas (in spite of Waterstones trying to trick us by putting a sticker on the front that says 'A Christmas horror story!') because the whole point of the Christmas thing is that it's REALLY unnerving to hear Christmas songs when it isn't Christmas, and that's even more apparent when you're reading it and it's March all of a sudden (Seriously. Four months. Entirely my fault.)

This book though. I definitely have a few tiny issues with it, but they're pretty much engulfed by how much I just purely enjoyed it. I feel like I sometimes miss out on books that are a lot of fun (even if it's scary fun) because I read a lot of 'Literary Fiction' because I can't quite bear reading books that aren't well written. But THIS! This is both well written and completely absorbing, and this is my favourite combination of book, I think. *Whispers* It's why I like Stephen King so much... But anyway, this. So much action, combined with so much good writing makes it so much my kind of book.

And and, as Alley said in her review (because apparently, the way to write posts that are difficult to write is to steal borrow some inspiration!) the secondary characters are SO. GOOD. I don't know how a person could read this and not love Maggie, and the Gas Mask Man is extremely creepy, and there's this one character who's in it extremely peripherally, but who still managed to make me cry with a note and that is kind of an amazing thing. Even though this book has nearly 700 pages, it never loses its way, and doesn't include any characters that don't feel like living, breathing people, and that's pretty much the best compliment I can pay a book.

In case it doesn't go without saying, I highly recommend that you read this book, RIGHT NOW if not sooner. Just to wrap things up, I want to bring up Stephen King again, but in a non-comparing manner. In NOS4R2, there are a few tiny moments where SK books are referenced*** and every time it was SO EXCITING to me. I just... I can't even explain how pleasing it is to me when I know things that aren't necessarily made explicit, and even more pleasing when they're Stephen King related and yes. BUT NOS4R2 is definitely worth reading even without an encyclopaedic knowledge of the author's father's work.

*I know the answer is technically no, but we've met on the internet and that's basically the same thing. 
**Or not, because it seems to spoilery. We'll see.
***In a similar way to what King does in his own books


  1. I've loved all of Hill's books so far; this particular one is arguably my least favorite he's written so far, but that's less a comment on "NOS4A2" (which is terrific from beginning to end) than it is on just how much I loved the others.

    Like you, I was greatly amused by the King connections. I can certainly understand why Hill would have avoided that sort of thing early in his career, but the fact that he's doing it now tickles me. Hill's writing style isn't very similar to his dad's, but the apple certainly didn't fall far from the tree in terms of storytelling ability.

    Make sure you pick up the spinoff graphic novel, "Wraith," when it comes out. Or, better yet, track down some back issues and get caught up before the series finishes! It's been pretty great so far.

    1. Oh wow, I'm quite excited to read the rest of Hill's books now then if this is the 'worst' one! I really did love it so much.

      I love when Stephen King references his universe in his own books, so I love it just as much/even more when someone else does it! They're so tiny that they'd be easily missable, but for fans of both it's just really very pleasing!

    2. Yes indeed. In "Wraith," there's even a great reference to his brother Owen King's debut novel! Very cool.

      You might not like Hill's other novels as much as I do; who can say. Then again, you might like them more. They're all well worth reading, though, that's fo sho.

  2. Didn't I tell you Joe Hill was great? DIDN'T I?! *pats self on back*

    There are dozens of SK tidbits in all of Joe Hill's books, and actually it's probably in this book that the connections are most glaring. Which, you know, they aren't really, but compared to how carefully they're included into his other books they really stand out. I guess he must have felt more comfortable for people to compare him to his father now that he's proved that he's a decent writer in his own right.

    And I second Bryant's call for reading Wraith. Tom actually picked up the first issue before we started listening to NOS4R2 and was about to start reading it and I was like "Are you insane, YOU NEED TO READ THE BOOK FIRST" but apparently because it's a prequel he didn't think it'd matter. I mean really.

    1. I'm pretty sure you did say that! Remember when I said I was going to wait until after I'd read all the King to read this? LOL nonsense.

      They're definitely not horribly glaring connections even in this, they're just genuinely SO PLEASING. Like a tiny little nod to SK fans who've found Hill that way, and going 'thanks for coming, now look at what I can do!' I just love it.

      WHAT, TOM?! Get it together, man! I enjoy believing that you actually yelled that at him because, come on, books are important!

    2. Oh yeah, I don't mean glaring in a bad way just that they're much easier to notice than in his earlier books. In Horns they're really blink-or-you'll-miss it (and if I remember right there's only 2 or 3) while I felt like they weren't as buried in NOS4R2 (although still not in your face to people not in the know)

      I actually did yell, haha. Maybe not that exact line but something to that effect. He should have known better though!

    3. It's starting to go both ways, too: there is a big "NOS4A2" reference in "Doctor Sleep" (and vice versa, too).

      I'd love to see the two of them write a novel together. They've collaborated on two short stories -- "Throttle" and "In the Tall Grass" -- both of which are really good.

    4. I really liked both Throttle and In the Tall Grass, a collab book between them would be AMAZING

  3. Yay, you wrote it! Also I very much appreciate you starting with "How will I get through this review and not mention SK? Oh, I won't even bother STEPHEN KING STEPHEN KING!!'

    OMG THAT NOTE. I forgot to mention it and it's like why would you even be touched by that character? But shit. That note.

    1. I did write it! And shhhhhh! "Don't mention Stephen King! I mentioned him once, but I think I got away with it!" (This means nothing to you if you've never seen Fawlty Towers, and if that's the case, I must emphatically tell you to sort your life out!)

      I actually did forget about the note, but I was going back through the book to the pages I'd turned over (I dog ear pages with gooood quotes on that I put in my quote notebook because I'm a dork) and I refound it and was just like 'omg. NO. NOOOOOOOO.' I think that note genuinely made me cry.

  4. Replies
    1. Because SOMEONE pronounces Nosferatu funny. (hint, not us) nos-for-AH-too or nos-fo-ARR-too


    3. I need to get a copy of NOS4R2. The title makes me chuckle, and the cover art is great.

    4. Wait, who pronounces it which way, because we have the NOS4R2 title in Australia but we pronounce the R as ahhh (or aghhh) and I'm not sure if that's more in line with the English or the Americans.

    5. But if you pronounce the R like ahh, why put an R there? At least A has the short A sound that goes ahhh. I have a lot of questions for whoever made this naming decision.

      Also, I wonder how this book is titled in non-English languages where the whole thing falls apart

    6. ALLEY! This bothers you so much, I can tell. I just think you must really overpronounce your 'r's, cause it's not really like 'arrrr' it's definitely more of an 'ahh' or, at the most, an 'ahr' sound. THIS IS SO HARD WITHOUT SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER.

      The point is, instinctively I would go 'Ay' for NOS4A2, and that's definitely less right than sounding a bit like a pirate. Basically.

    7. I agree with Laura in that I always assumed American pronounced it Ay rather than ahh because of the A in the title. But I actually think Australia is kind of wack because pronounciation wise we actually fall closer to New England accents than English accents, so I guess NOS4A2 should actually make more sense for us?

      I just had a look at international edition titles and it looks like they tend to go for the much safer Christmasland.

    8. It's a German word (he said, not actually 100% certain that was the case), so theoretically we all ought to be pronouncing it the way the Germans pronounce it.

      Which, incidentally, is the way Americans pronounce it.

      Yay, something we managed to NOT screw up!