Monday, July 18, 2016

Review of "NOS4A2" by Joe Hill




Victoria McQueen has a special ability. She can ride her bike across the 'Shorter Way Bridge' and arrive wherever she wants to be. As a kid, Vic uses this skill to retrieve lost objects. When Vic's mom misplaces a bracelet, for instance, the bridge takes Vic to a diner 40 miles away to retrieve it. And when Vic misplaces a photo, the bridge takes her to the school lockers where she left it.

Creepy Charles Manx also has a special ability. He has a vintage Rolls Royce Wraith that takes him to a place called 'Christmasland' - a supernatural amusement park he's constructed out of his imagination. Manx uses the car, which has the license plate "NOS4A2" (Noseratu) to abduct children and take them to Christmasland. As the child is being driven to the park his/her life force is drained to sustain Manx and restore his youth. Thus, Christmasland is populated with decomposing ghoul children who delight in biting, tearing apart, and killing people - especially adults.

Abducting children is a tricky business so Manx enlists an assistant named Bing, a somewhat dim-witted sociopath who once took a nail gun to his father's head. Bing's job is to help subdue the kids and get rid of the parents. Because Bing uses a psychotropic gas for these tasks he's called the gas mask man.

By the time Vic becomes a teen she's all kinds of disturbed, with parents that don't get along and a talent she doesn't understand. So one day Vic goes out looking for trouble and finds it. Vic crosses the Shorter Way Bridge and happens upon Charles Manx - who's on his way to Christmasland with a child. Vic tries to rescue the kid and fails, but she manages to escape from Manx...and is instrumental in putting him in prison. A decade later Manx dies in prison....BUT NOT REALLY! And his autopsied body disappears from the morgue.

While Manx was locked up a lot went on in Vic's life. She became estranged from her parents; became an alcoholic; went to a mental hospital; had a son; etc. In any case, when Manx 'dies' and gets back on the street he kidnap's Vic's 10-year-old son Wayne. Law enforcement officers don't believe Vic's story that Manx took the boy (Who would? Manx is dead after all.) So Vic herself becomes a suspect in Wayne's abduction and has to elude the FBI while trying to rescue her son. And the epic battle between good an evil is on.

There are interesting secondary characters in the story including a librarian who gets supernatural messages using scrabble tiles; Wayne's father Lou - an amiable motorcycle-riding mechanic who'd do anything for his boy; and an FBI agent who has an inkling that's something odd is happening. The story has lots of creepy scenes including Bing torturing and killing his victims; Manx taking an increasingly delusional/deteriorating Wayne on the long drive to Christmasland; mysterious phone calls from dead children; and more. There's also plenty of action, with stabbings, hammerings, shootings, narrow escapes, etc. The book's finale is fittingly dramatic and bloody.

I enjoyed this well-written horror/thriller and recommend it to fans of the genre.

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