Thursday, February 6, 2014
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
If you like: creepy kids * dream worlds * badass heroines
NOS4A2 is the story of Vic, a woman who has been able to transport herself over a bridge that no longer exists in order to find things she desires, and Charlie Manx, a serial abductor with a car that can take him along highways that cannot be traveled by ordinary means in order to get to “Christmasland” where he brings children to exist in a perpetual state of uninhibited “fun” and mayhem. Traveling these dreamscapes, or inscapes, is an incomprehensible prospect that only rare individuals are capable of. Vic doesn’t even realize she is traveling across one for several years, or the toll that it takes on her. Manx, on the other hand, utilizes his Rolls-Royce Wraith to commit gruesome acts in the pursuit of a life of fun for his two daughters and the other children whose youth he feeds upon.
The appearance of everyone and everything in NOS4A2 is constantly changing. Perceptions cannot be trusted. Manx's whole being is centered around deceiving those around him. Though he relies on the power of the Wraith to get him what he wants, the inscape is still driven by his twisted mind and idea of what is desirable. He takes Christmas, which is viewed with unending joy by children and recognized by adults to be stressful slog it is all too often, and corrupts it into a nightmarish hellscape. The titles that Manx uses conflict with the nature of what they are. Christmasland is more of a nightmare. The House of Sleep is not a respite, but a place that leads to the eternal sleep of death. Vic is also constantly changing depending on how far removed she is from her inscape. As a child, when she is unaware that anything is unordinary about it, she is able to exist happily with her ability and the normalcy of her family. Once she begins to understand that she has repeatedly done the impossible, it begins to take a toll on her relationships. Though she is always a girl who loves her bike and driving too fast, the bike changes and so does the rider. Her desire to find is the true power behind her speed, but it is her desire to return with what is missing that keeps her pushing over the bridge. By all appearances, she is a deadbeat who has given up. In reality, the desire to find and collect the things that are missing are what has torn her apart. Just trying to attain that which she does not have is what prevents her from having it. Her son, Wayne, illustrates the change the best as he attempts to hold onto his sense of self while being drawn in by the magic of Christmasland. Wayne is perhaps the person in the story who is most able to inhabit this transient state and come out whole on the other side. Living in a nightmare will always take a toll, but you have to know that you can leave it behind once you wake up in order to survive.
NOS4A2 is not a book that shies away from the dark or gruesome. The creepiness of the children that Manx has manipulated cannot be properly captured in a review. Somehow, they still maintain their childish innocence while acting like deranged psychopaths. Playing games like “scissors-for-the-drifter” and sporting rows and rows of sharp, fish hook teeth, these children act anything but innocent. It is not just Christmasland or Manx that provide the dark aspects of the story. The consequences of traversing an inscape provide a bleak view on sanity. The implausibility of the actions causes irreparable harm to those who interact with them. As with many seeming super powers, there is always a cost. Being able to see beyond the normal realm will always raise questions of sanity. Knowing things one shouldn’t, or going to impossible places will make people doubt your credibility, but keeping the secret is also harmful. The burning power of touching an inscape leaves lasting, cumulative scars on each person who does it. Knowing that harm will be caused does not make the possibility of achieving the unbelievable any less desirable. Instead, the element of danger almost makes it more appealing. The higher the cost, the more attractive an idea is. The combination of gruesome violence, creepy children, and questionable narrators makes NOS4A2 a haunting read.
If you don’t know where you’re going, but you aren’t afraid to drive, read NOS4A2.
Hill, Joe. NOS4A2. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2013. Kindle edition.