Reviewed by Joe R. Lansdale. Horror is too simplistic a word for Joe Hill’s new novel, but there’s no denying it makes the skin crawl like a worm on a hot rock. It’s as much fantasy-thriller as a descent into the maelstrom, but no matter how you label it, what makes it work best is that it is a novel of well-defined characters, and one character in particular: the Brat, real name Victoria McQueen. Victoria discovers she has a knack. She can find lost things. She does this by concentrating on the object and riding her bike, a Raleigh Tuff Burner. While on board her metal and rubber-tired steed, she is subtly carried away into a world that seems as real as her own. It is accessed by the Shorter Way Bridge and is a place where all things lost that Vic seeks are found. When she crosses back into our world with the found object, the bridge ceases to exist, at least until she sets her mind to a new search and starts across once again on her trusty machine. It’s an amazing talent but it has a price, both physical and emotional. Vic doesn’t understand her abilities, but as she gets older she comes across someone she thinks can explain them to her—a woman with a bag of Scrabble game tiles through which she divines answers, reminiscent of an ancient soothsayer prowling through animal guts and rattling human knuckle bones. Vic finds her revelations less than reassuring, and it looks as if she may be in for some harrowing moments, which, of course, is what we are all hoping for as readers. In contrast to Vic, whose intentions are good, is Charles Manx, and if that last name doesn’t clue you in that he’s the villain of this piece, then the car he drives will: a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith with a license plate reading NOS4A2. He arrives in our world out of a place called Christmasland, a phantasmagoric amusement park full of dark possibilities and, in spite of its child-pleasing title, containing about as much light and happiness as a concentration camp at midnight. Like Dracula, Manx has his Renfield—Bing Partridge, a pathetic gas-mask-wearing follower looking for validation and love; a sad creature sticking himself tight to someone more powerful than himself and his personal role model for evil. Manx, Bing, and Vic cross paths, as one would expect, and it’s a dynamic collision with an echo that reverberates through the years and sets all three up for a new and even more frightening encounter that makes the first one look like a child’s birthday party. Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a brilliant exploration of classic and modern monsters and dark fantasies, all cut up, restitched and retooled, sliding you along as if you’re cruising way too fast in a rusty old Cadillac down a dark, twisty road with no lights, bald tires, and no hands on the wheel. Watch out for the pot holes. They’re deep. With this novel, riveting from beginning to end, Joe Hill has become a master of his craft. Joe R. Lansdale is the author of 30 novels and numerous short stories. His most recent novel is Edge of Dark Water from Mulholland Books
Reviewed on: 03/25/2013 Release date: 04/30/2013 Genre: Fiction
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