Let me just start this right off by saying: gosh diggity dang this book is fantastic. I’m a big fan of the Locke and Key series by Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, namely because Hill does such a fine job really tapping into the wonder of the fantasy genre. And like Locke and Key, in Hill’s newest, the hefty NOS4A2, the reader follows along in a multiple decade spanning adventure. The characters are quirky, unstable even, and a near disproportionate amount of them are big time comic nerds, but they never read as artificial (Plus I am biased, I rooted for Lou, the chunky comic nerd father more than anyone). Hill works with a largely female cast, deftly tackling the theme of what it means to become an adult and the real life and imaginary horrors that accompany that. It’s a long, arduous journey through hell spent with Vic McQueen and one that never falters though at times she does.
Perhaps it is his years of experience in the comic business, but Hill has a knack for writing extremely clear, no-fuss dialogue. It is what really allows the reader their greatest insights into the characters, as well as making less work for the Narrator, so that he can focus on the all important plethora of gruesome, horrifying and fast-paced action scenes that will assure the next time you hear Jingle Bell Rock playing that you will shudder more than usual.
What really sets NOS4A2 apart from most of the other fantasy/horror out there, in my opinion, is the self-awareness present throughout. Nothing bugs me more in horror movies or novels than when some over-referenced mythological creature goes on a killing spree, and the world acts as if they have never heard of the notions of aliens, werewolves, or vampires. Unless the time period is antiquated enough where people would not have heard of those types of things, it really just doesn’t make sense. Half the TV shows and movies that exist right now are about those things. Hill embraces the worlds created before this one, those of his own previous works and other authors as well (even some of Stephen King’s worlds, he has not forgotten the face of his father apparently). There were multiple times while reading that I found myself thinking “wow, this is just like this book or that book,” and on cue Hill basically says to the reader’s face: ‘Yes, I know it seems like that world, but it isn’t. That world is next door.’
NOS4A2 marks an exciting new chapter in Joe Hill’s career. I highly recommend this one!