Katie Recommends: N0S4A2 by Joe Hill
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. Manx and his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith who likes to transport children to the astonishing — and terrifying–“Christmasland.” That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.
Come for the characters, stay for the plot; Hill is not afraid to write flawed, yet compelling characters and woo boy does Vic have flaws. But then, so does Lou, the geeky, overweight biker who finds Vic by the side of the road and takes her to safety. Or Maggie, the baddass, stuttering librarian who helps Vic find her son. And Wayne, of course, who has inherited his mother’s survival instincts and world class stubbornness, good traits to have when you’ve been kidnapped by… whatever Manx is.
Each character feels like someone you could meet around town, which is what makes Hill’s horror work so well. You get so dang attached to these people. Couple this with Hill’s subtle, down-to-earth writing style and you have a book that’s hard to forget. Five years after reading I can still hear the visceral sounds the text conjured for a struggle in the book, in which Wayne watches Manx and Vic brawl. That snap literally made me gasp in surprise.
This book has a lot going on; it spans pretty much Vic’s whole life, with chapters from the point of view of every character listed above, and then some. Everything interweaves so tightly, though, that it never feels bloated, repetitive, or overwrought. Complex though the narrative is, Hill somehow manages to make it simple to follow from start to finish and beyond.
This book is a great gateway into horror books (it was one of my very first forays into the genre), and if you’re already a fan, there are all manner of Easter Eggs from Hill’s other work, as well as references to locales like Pennywise’s Circus and Shawshank Prison. If you’re looking for a book to get you into the Halloween Spirit, look no further than N0S4A2. It certainly won’t disappoint.