NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (audio)

nos4a2Warning: here comes another rave review.

NOS4A2 is terrifying, enthralling, highly imaginative, and a deliciously entertaining wild ride. As much as I’m tempted to write a play-by-play plot synopsis, I shall resist, because discovering those twists and turns as told by Joe Hill is an excellent experience that I can’t match. So, a few brief sketches.

Victoria McQueen – known as Vic, or The Brat – rides a Raleigh Tuff Burner, a boy’s mountain bike that her dad bought her even though it’s really too big for her. We meet her at age 8, but follow her through several decades. Maggie Leigh is a small-town Iowa librarian with purple hair and an equal passion for Romance poetry and Henry Rollins. Lou Carmody is a fat man with a heart of gold who is passionate about superheroes, comics, fantasy, and his family. He works as a mechanic and is arguably the most loveable character in this story. There is a bad guy with a warped sense of “fun” and a love for little children; there is another bad guy who never really grew up and doesn’t want to. Settings range from the New Hampshire coast, to the Massachusetts woods, to the snowy mountains of Colorado, and of course that Iowa library.

NOS4A2 combines realism and a deft hand for family dynamics and truly touching, human, fully-wrought relationships with horror – and by horror I mean little children smiling sweetly while wielding chainsaws and singing Christmas carols by the light of an animate moon (and on from there). I came to love and care for Vic, Maggie Leigh, both Vic’s parents, Lou, Wayne, and all the rest: they are fully developed characters with all the quirks and back-stories a reader could ask for. The imagination employed to create these characters – not to mention the outrageous, chilling, perfectly explicated otherworld they have to deal with – is prodigious. I marvel at the mind that can create such things.

Spooky creepy world-building combined with all-American realism, horrifically menacing little children, and an expert sense of pacing and suspense put NOS4A2 in the highest class. Not to put too fine a point on it, then, Joe Hill has all the goods his daddy does. Full points as well to Kate Mulgrew for her narration, which ranges over numerous distinctive voices, including accents, genders, and terror. As Hill points out in the author interview at the end of this audiobook (on which more to come in a later post), a well-read audiobook is a uniquely awesome experience, and this is one. Fully absorbing, realistic and petrifying, NOS4A2 is a juicy good time, but not for the faint of heart. I’m on to find more of Joe Hill.

Rating: 10 Scrabble tiles.
(Final tip: DO listen to the audiobook!)

7 Responses

  1. […] my experience with Joe Hill’s outstanding NOS4A2, I have been considering the relationship of Hill’s writing to his […]

  2. […] greener pastures. In fact, I’m now starting a novel by Joe Hill, whose librarian character in NOS4A2 was possibly a little bit of a cariciature in the other direction – with her purple hair and […]

  3. […] sure you will recall that I was entranced by Joe Hill’s NOS4A2; so naturally I enter his debut novel with high hopes. It […]

  4. […] NOS4A2 is a hard act to follow. Although of course, Joe Hill wrote that one second; I’m out of […]

  5. […] girlfriend of mine, who was offended by the opposing, counterculture librarian-stereotype in NOS4A2 (purple hair, funny hats, obscenities and Henry Rollins) – she felt it was too trendy, too […]

  6. […] novel by Joe Hill, son of the horror novel empire of the world, and author of Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2. So I had high hopes, and indeed was moving along smoothly enough, feeling engaged and interested, […]

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