The most recent book I have read (in addition to the other three books I am reading at the moment) is NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. NOS4A2 is his third published novel, after his debut work, Heart-Shaped Box (2007), and his sophomore novel, Horns (2010). I have not read Horns yet as I only finished Heart-Shaped Box earlier this year. I meant to read these books years ago but I never got around to it.
I meant to read them since I am a big fan of his father, Stephen King. Joe wanted to prove himself under his own name instead of riding on his father’s coattails. When I was turned onto Locke & Key by a good friend of mine it renewed my interest in Joe’s novels. By the way, go find the first five volumes of Locke & Key and read them. I don’t care if you read comic books or not, it’s a must read.
I didn’t like the end of Heart-Shaped Box. I think Joe had a good idea for how to end the story but it didn’t come across right to me. I think something was lost in the writing. I can’t fault him though because the rest of the book is fantastic. I was worried I would once again be disappointed once I reached the end of NOS4A2.
While Charlie Manx gives a remarkable aura of eeriness I don’t feel he’s as scary an antagonist as Craddock in Heart-Shaped Box. What makes Manx off-putting is the legitimate happiness he exudes and his friendly nature appears genuine. While Max was creepy, Craddock was terrifying.
Nor do I think the protagonist, Victoria McQueen, was a strong as Judas Coyne from Heart-Shaped Box. Early in the book, after she appears as an adult, I hated her. I decided that she was a scumbag that I wanted nothing to do with. I felt bad for her son, since she was such a terrible person. Nor did I find her son, Wayne, that compelling, he served as a living MacGuffin for Vic and both Manx. And Lou, Wayne’s father, as a support character didn’t bring much to the story either. I loved him anyways though, for being an outlet for Joe’s geek interests.
The breakout character for the story is Bing Partridge, the Gasmask Man. Slimy and all around foul he is without a doubt the nastiest piece of work I have read about in quite some time. He is vile but so well written that you can’t help but want to know more. The only time I ever feared for Vic was during her up close and personal encounters with Bing. The character is also a shout out to his own father’s work, notably the Trashcan Man from The Stand. They both serve similar roles as devoted, insane, followers of the antagonist.
Joe also uses NOS4A2 to tie together elements from his other books. Manx talks about Craddock, as well as references the Backwards Walking Man, a character first mentioned, in a throw away line, in Heart-Shaped Box. There is also a map that features many of the locations in his other books, as well as the Lovecraft house in Locke & Key. The map also features Derry, from his father’s work.
Instead of trying to avoid his father’s shadow, with this novel Joe Hill embraces it, and it works well. I was not disappointed by the ending, despite some lack luster characters. Over all I don’t think it was as good as Heart-Shaped Box, but NOS4A2 is still a good read I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of horror. Just don’t let it ruin your Christmas for you.