There's something so satisfying about finishing a long book, and NOS4A2 is no exception. At just over 700 pages, NOS4A2 drops you into a dark and scary world, where certain objects have powers that tie into the soul, and children disappear forever into a bright and terrifyingly cheerful place called Christmasland...
While reading, I kept thinking that this book reminded me of something and then it hit me, all at once - Stephen King's IT. Like the children of IT, we follow the heroine, Vic, from a young age. We see her first interaction with Charlie Manx and how she is barely able to escape him, but hurts him in the process. We follow her to adulthood and see how the experience shaped and hardened her, and how she struggles to prepare herself for the second dark showdown that she knows, deep down, she might not survive.
I think Joe Hill registered the similarity, too, because it seemed like some Easter Eggs were tossed in there for the fans. As a child, for example, Vic's bike has magical powers, and she chooses it over a Schwinn (the bike that Bill road in IT). Later on, when she has her magical motorcycle, she says HI-YO, SILVER, which was Stuttering Bill's rallying cry, whenever he road his own somewhat magical bike. I don't think this is a coincidence; I choose to believe that this book was Joe Hill paying homage to his dad's legacy.
That isn't to say that this book doesn't stand on its own. Between Christmasland, the Gasmask Man, The House of Sleep, and Charlie Manx, I didn't sleep all that well last night. In fact, I was pretty freaked out. Sometimes horror novels are too over-the-top ridiculous, but this book does a really good job of tapping into those subconscious fears that we all have (just like IT - sorry). It's also creative and original in a way that a lot of horror novels aren't - no werewolves or monsters in here, just a very creepy man and his very creepy henchman, and an army of terrifying little children.
Also, I loved the heroine, and if there was anything I took issue with, it was the fact that Joe Hill pulled a George R.R. Martin with her and basically tortured her every chance he got. So many bad things happened to Vic in this book, and I was hoping that her ending would be much happier than it was (ditto Maggie). There's just something about a tattooed artist with a magical motorcycle, y'know?
If you enjoy horror, and especially if you enjoyed IT, you should read NOS4A2. The graphic novel is pretty good, too. I received an ARC of it from Netgalley, and that was actually what got me interested in reading the book. The artist really does a great job bringing the book to life.
3.5 out of 5 stars