Author: Joe Hill
Page Count/Review Word Count: 696
This beast of a book is my second Joe Hill book after Heart-Shaped Box, and while I don’t think it was quite as good, it’s still very much worth reading. It also feels just like reading one of his dad’s books, which is pretty interesting. Now I just need to read some Owen and some Tabitha and I’ll have worked my way through the entire family.
In this book, a bad guy called Charles Manx is kidnapping kids and taking them to Christmasland, where it’s Christmas Day every morning and Christmas Eve every night. With that said, it’s not exactly a Christmassy book, and even if it is then it’s a Christmas horror novel, although I didn’t find it particularly scary. There was a decent amount of gore, though.
I also liked the way that the villains in this book were so fleshed out that it was sometimes hard to tell whether they really were villains. It was pretty clear that they all thought that they were doing the right thing, it’s just that the right thing involved basically turning children into hollowed out husks of their former selves. It turns out that that’s what happens when you remove all of the negative emotions that have been forced on to them from living in an imperfect world.
Then there were the characters, who were all super believable and who felt thoroughly fleshed out, even if not all of them were particularly likeable. I also liked the fact that my favourite side character was killed off because I think she’d served her purpose by the time that it happened anyway. I wasn’t so convinced by the love interest that popped up right at the end, especially because it was with a character that had been knocking around throughout.
Another cool thing about NOS4R2 is that Hill tied it in with his father’s fictional universe. Every Stephen King novel is interlinked (take a look at Edward Lorn’s Thursday Theorist series on YouTube if you want to learn more), but I wasn’t expecting a throwaway reference to Pennywise the Clown and Derry, Maine in a Joe Hill book. It’s cool, though, that as a family they can riff together on their writing, and by all accounts we have his mother Tabitha to thank for the ending, because she thought the original final chapter was a little naff.
I have no major complaints with the end result, but there’s just something about it that stopped it from being a five star book, although I will agree that it was pretty good. Part of the problem is likely the fact that I’ve heard so many good things about this book that I think my expectations were too high, but on the flipside, I was never bored while reading it and despite it being a pretty big book, I read through it in just a couple of days. It was a good one to be reading while travelling.
I think it also shows that Hill is a versatile writer who can write books of any length. King tends to write more long books than short ones, but it seems like Hill is the other way around. I don’t have a problem with that though, and now that I’ve read and enjoyed this one, I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. Well, I say that – he already has plenty more books on the market as well as a couple of graphic novels, so it’s not like I’m spoiled for choice.
All in all then, I was pretty happy with NOS4R2, and while it isn’t going to be my book of the year, it’s likely to make it to my top forty. I’d recommend it if you’re a horror fan, and if you’re a Stephen King fan in particular. Heart-Shaped Box had its own voice and established Joe as a talented writer in his own right. NOS4R2 shows his father’s influence on his work and if I read it with no name attached then I’d have guessed it was by King.