Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 could very well be the best book Stephen King has never written. Joe Hill is a master. Heart-Shaped Box and Horns and 20th Century Ghosts showed me small glimpses, but this book with the weird title and cheesy title puts his true potential out there for everyone to see. Of course, it's early yet. Who knows what's next for Joe Hill, but maybe NOS4A2 is but another glimpse (although an amazing freaking glimpse) of even greater things on the horizon. Naturally, when I first read the title I was kind of put off. Like Horns, the title just seemed too cutesy. 

-- (Brief aside: Is it just me or does everything these days have a crummy title or a title that just seems kinda dull? Doctor Sleep? Sounds like a cheesy 1970's comic book villain. 13? I get that it's a cool number and synonymous with bad luck but it's your nineteenth album! And Death Magnetic? Worship Music? World Painted Blood? Now What?! I'm not insulting the works, but can't we all agree that a little more time spent on coming up with a title is okay?) --

I mean, if you are going to name your book something so silly then you better bring your A-game to the field. And Joe does. I won't say he's the next Stephen King because I don't believe in things like that. I don't read Joe because of who his father is. In fact, one of the reasons I steered clear of Joe for a bit was because of who his father is. No one deserves to be judged like that. If I approached a Joe Hill book I wanted it to be because I wanted to read a Joe Hill book and not because I wanted to read a book by one of Stephen King's sons just to see how they compare. That's just unfair, IMO. Like comparing Barry Sanders to the son of Barry Sanders without ever having seen the son of Barry Sanders play a down. Does that make sense? 

But holy hell does Joe Hill really get his father's work! I don't know if this was intended as an homage to the IT universe his father created, but it feels that way at times (while also standing firmly on its own two feet, of course). There's even an evil car that would make Christine jealous! Joe Hill is simply a beast wordsmith. He confronts the Stephen King shadow hanging over him with an ease and confidence and his mastery shows in his artful execution. He is his father's son and has some of his father's talent for description of everyday people and the macabre, but there's something there that is all Joe's and it is every bit as good as his father's, too.  

Some Joe Hill fans (and maybe some SK fan, too) might be put off by the SK-vibe of the whole thing and the SK-length of the book (600 plus pages!), but I don't have a problem with it. It's actually a welcome addition and as long as Joe tries to maintain a sense of individuality in his writing, there's nothing this guy can't do without at least having some measure of success. If he keeps putting out excellent fiction than he is going to find himself rocketing up my list of favorite writers. In fact, this book alone puts him up a few spots. 

Have I told you what it's about? Do I really need to? It took me a month to read this hefty tome because of work and such, but this book is like a fine wine because it ages well and deserves to be taken in slowly. And, damn, did that ever just sound like a sexual innuendo or what? 

Charles Talent Manx is a great villain with a great car and a great personality. He's over the top and kind of goofy but also chilling (and not necessarily in a Christmasy kind of way). At some point I had to remind myself that this guy sucked the souls out of small children with his car and hung out with a childlike rapist/murderer wearing a gasmask!

This book is a must read if you like horror (yeah, I know nobody likes that word anymore) or dark fantasy or just plain damn good books. Read it and experience the sheer brilliance of Joe Hill. 


  1. In Joe's other work, I never saw much resemblance to SK (except for being awesome)so I'm sure the SK homage was intentional. There are so many references that I'm sure I missed a few and would probably find them on a re-read. I loved that reference where the Saint Bernard "just wanted to be a "good dog." This book was riveting and really hard to put down. Joe Hill really is a master. To write a story that travels across so much territory and time and be able to hold it all together without ever getting slow or confusing is pretty amazing. I wish Joe would drop his comic job and just start writing novels. He is a great writer.

  2. Joe Hill is the man. The book was a great ride and Joe Hill did a great job with a story that covers a lot of miles and a lot of time. I can't think of a single place where this story slowed down. It was almost impossible to put down.

    All of the SK references were fun. I probably missed a few.