It's not often that I opt to not finish a book, especially a book that I picked for myself to read. But in this case, I just couldn't keep going. I decided this year to read some books from genres I don't normally read or that I haven't read for a while. One such genre was the "horror" genre. I'd heard that Joe Hill is supposed to be great, so when I saw NOS4A2, I thought I'd give it a try.
The premise sounded interesting…sort of "true crime" meets light supernatural magic. Sadly the book ended up being too vulgar and disturbing for my tastes. Too much swearing, too many violent and sexual references. Just too many graphic details that honestly didn't need to be included. All they really added to the story, in my opinion, was to make the book darker and more disturbing/distasteful. Now I'll admit that there really are some people who talk and act like some of the characters in the book…but I'm uncomfortable around people like that as well. With that in mind, I can't recommend this book for its content. I do find the premise interesting and intriguing. I had hoped it would be more in line with some of the TV Crime Dramas that I sometimes watch with my life…a sort of "TV-PG" rating rather than a definite hard "R" rating (though I think they'd probably have to tone things down even for an "R").
Basically the villain in the story (Manx) is a serial killer/kidnapper who has a magical car (with the license plate NOS4A2) that lets him drive to a place that doesn't exist in the real world. The place….Christmasland. He paints himself as a sort of heroic Santa Claus saving children for bad situations in the real world by taking them away to Christmasland where they can play and enjoy Christmas every day. Of course, Manx also "saves" the kids by killing their parents or guardians (who aren't winners per se…drug addicts or deadbeats or the like). There also seems to be some mystical soul sucking magic where Manx gains some sort of twisted immortality by living off the energy of the kids he's kidnapped. I stopped reading before it gave too many details about how that worked.
On the other side of the story is our hero, Victoria ("Vic") McQueen. The book follows her life from childhood to adult and it does bounce forward and backward a little bit with foreshadowing and flashbacks. As a child, Vic isn't super satisfied with her life and family but she doesn't have it that bad. One day after a family fight, she happens to ride her bike into the nearby forest and across a rickety wooden bridge. She is transported many miles and finds a piece of her mother's jewelry (which was the cause of the earlier fight). Her bike (combined with the wooden bridge) have a magical element like Manx's car which allows Vic to go to certain places and "find" things. She hears about Manx and his car (a Wraith) and one day goes to find him. It's a frightening confrontation but he ends up getting captured as a result. Naturally, he later escapes and decides it's time to come after Vic and her son.
Again, the plot seems interesting and it could be an exciting story. Apart from the violent and vulgar writing, I can applaud Joe Hill for his writing and storytelling. There were some excellent descriptions of character, setting and motivation. I legitimately enjoyed some of the less disturbing action sequences. I'm a bit disappointed that my recent re-foray into the horror genre was so over-the-top violent/vulgar/graphic. As a result, I think I'm giving up on Joe Hill and likely won't seek out any "horror" novels for a while (at least nothing above the Middle Grade or Teen level).
1 out of 5 stars
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