Review – Nos4a2
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  • Posted:
  • May 2, 2014

nos4a2

I’m going to warn everyone now that this review is going to be all over the map. Truth be told, I am not sure how to feel about this book. I can’t say whether I liked it or not. I can’t say whether it was enjoyable or not. Those are not even close to describing the emotions I felt while reading Nos4a2. I can’t just sum up this book in a brief two hundred word review, but I can tell you all of the things it did to me while reading it…and, believe me, they are legion.

Nos4a2 is Joe Hill’s third novel and an homage to the work of his father, Stephen King. It comprises several characters over several time periods, jumping from the mid-1980’s through present day. It involves a dead child abductor named Charlie Manx, his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, a man named Bing who killed his own parents and has extensive knowledge of psychotropic anesthesia, a Raleigh bicycle, a scrabble tile wielding librarian, a disappearing bridge, a child named after Batman, a series of children’s books, and Vic McQueen. Oh, and a place called Christmasland.

And no, none of that makes any sense unless you have read the book.

Vic discovers a portal to other parts of the United states via her bicycle and a bridge that takes her to lost things. As a teenager she is abducted by Charlie Manx after a botched trip across the Shorter-Way bridge takes her to him. She manages to escape with the help of Lou Carmody, a comic book obsessed overweight young man who becomes the father of her child, Bruce Wayne Carmody. Now, years later, Charlie Manx is back with a bone to pick with Vic despite the fact that he spent years in a coma in a hospital and has been declared deceased.

Where to start. I hated this book, and yet I finished the entire thing. I have never had a book that made me feel so gross, so uncertain of myself, and so repulsed at the same time. This book is chock full of many things that I would never read – kidnapping children, attempted sexual assault of both women and children, gender misogyny, bigotry in all forms… I don’t do any of these things, and yet I finished the book. And now I feel completely violated by it. That’s really the best word to describe it. Violated.

To be fair, it’s horror. I knew what I was getting into before starting it. Second, it’s my book group’s choice this month and I really could have stopped at any time. Scratch that… I should have stopped, and probably before I started. As soon as the suggested pedophilia came into play I should have just stopped. I don’t do well with that theme. Ever.

– For the record there is no actual sexual assault. I just have a hard time even with the threat of it. And this book has a lot of threat to it, so there is your trigger warning.

But, it’s horror. And horror has always held a weird fascination for me. The unfortunate truth is once I start I have to see it through, movies and books alike. If I stop part-way through I will never be able to stop imagining the possibilities of what might befall the characters. So, I forced myself to finish.

And I quite enjoyed (if one can) the characters in this book. Vic is surly and jaded, broken in the worst ways. She grows up to be a resilient woman with a huge chip on her shoulder. She changes very little over the course of the book even after her first encounter with Charlie Manx. Vic grew up in a not-so-perfect household, so it makes sense that her character is consistent. By contrast Lou, her partner, is probably the real protagonist of the story, since he clearly changes by the end of the book. Lou was actually my favourite character in the novel. I had moments where I identified with him very clearly. Many of the other characters in the book are there to serve quick narrative purposes… or they are the bad guys. And I won’t dwell on them.

On a technical note this book is overly long. That Joe Hill is mimicking his father’s style of writing shows. Stephen King has always been heavy-handed on tangents and long on character building. This book is no exception. In that Hill has succeeded in bringing his father’s touch to his own work. For me, this was not the best way to acquaint myself with Hill, as it’s more of a nod to his Father than himself.  The King-ness of the book was not lost on me and I found myself sighing at the (sheer) length of how long it took Hill to come to the point. There are also shades of Dracula in the book and I didn’t miss those being a life-long Dracula fan.

– For the record, the book did not get interesting to me until the main plot was put into place, which happens around page four hundred. In a seven hundred page book more than half of the book is quite long to get things going.

And yet I finished it, and I can’t even tell you how. It took almost a month and sheer force of will to get through this book. And in the aftermath I feel very little but queasiness. Am I annoyed that I read it… honestly, I can’t say. But this book made me feel dirty, it made me feel inferior, it made me question my self-worth, it stole my sex-drive, and it made me feel inhumane all in the span of reading it.

I will never read this book again. I will read other books by Joe Hill, just not any time soon. This book is vile and makes me feel filthy. I’m going to go take fifteen showers now.

…And from a horror point of view that makes it a completely successful book. I can’t refute that. I just did not love it. So, there’s that.

No rating.

– BP

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