Monday, April 29, 2013
David reviews the new Joe Hill novel NOS4A2
There's a place for your children in Christmasland. And for all those worried parents and pesky adults, there's a place for you too, in the House of Sleep. Charlie Talent Manx is a monster of sorts, somewhere between a vampire and something else entirely. He travels the back roads of the mind taking children in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith to a fantastically horrible place called Christmasland. A place shaped by his warped imagination. Along the way the children that he takes are slowly transformed into cold wretched creatures with mouths full of sharp hooked teeth, and a giddy innocent desire to do the most horrible things to those that don't belong in the land of never ending Christmas carols.
Charlie enlists the help of an unbalanced and deranged man name Bing Partridge in his quest to populate Christmasland with children. Bing, also known as the Gas Mask Man, drugs the children so they're nice and pliable for the metamorphic ride. Parents and anyone else that get in the way become victims of the Gas Mask Man in the House of Sleep. If your a woman it's doubly worse as your road to an ugly death is paved with rape.
Like Charlie Manx, Victoria McQueen also has the ability to travel the unseen roads of thought an imagination by way of a bike and a covered bridge called the Shorter Way. It is through this bridge Vic is able to locate things that are "lost." It acts as much as an escape from things unpleasant as it does a doorway to others. Eventually these two travelers of the hidden back roads of thought and imagination find each other, and that's when Victoria's real nightmare begins...
NOS4A2 is a strange beast of a novel. While it definitely has its feet firmly planted in the horror genre, it has a lot of other ideas on its mind. Lengthy stretches of the novel delve into the exploration of abuse, be it familial, drug, or mental. It is here that Joe Hill separates himself from other authors of the genre. He takes his time building his characters and their world which, for some, could make for a taxing read if you're in the mood for a quick and to the point blood and guts rush. The story is quite episodic, starting in Vic McQueen's child and spanning though her adulthood. However, for the patient reader, the book eventually rewards. Hill paints a disturbing world where fractured, damaged individuals make up the hero roster, and chilling soulless creatures their antagonists. The battles that the hero's must fight and the pain and violence they must endure is just as much internal as it is external. While Hill's writing style shows flourishes of his father's, his stories and his storytelling are very much his own.
Fans of Hills work will undoubtedly scoop this up and devour it. Others who are unfamiliar with Hill's writing style may be a little more perplexed. As the novel clocks in at 686 pages, it might prove to be too lengthy a read for the uninitiated. For those who are on the fence about diving in to Joe Hills oeuvre, I would recommend Heart Shaped Box, Horns, or 20th Century Ghost to see if he's your cup of tea. That being said, while the novel is fairly lengthy, it's a bloody good read that will change the way you feel about hearing Christmas carols.
By our supervisor David.