NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It's an odd thing that recently I have given more 5 star ratings to indies than professionally published works; do I expect more of the Joe Hills of this world, or less of my own ilk?
I've now read The Fireman and NOS4R2 (English version?) and by far preferred this. The world of the inscape was brilliantly realised, and though Manx's 'roads' were a little cloudy, Vic McQueen's (a little too on the nose for a name) bridge was a great narrative construct to play with. The idea of all these hidden doorways was reminiscent of The Dark Tower and the world's created by Stephen King, so to touch upon these made the book feel a part of THAT world. There were inconsistencies and glossed over points, such as Vic's eye trauma whenever she used the bridge (in her childhood, it had the impression that she would lose her left-eye sight if she stayed on the other side of the bridge for too long, but by the end of the book she was happily skipping from one place to the next. I guess this was solved by her 'disappearing' the bridge, though felt a little 'forgotten').
The horror set-pieces were also nicely done, particularly the first encounter at Sleigh House, and the intro too. Kids with random weapons and rows of sharp teeth - what's not to run away from? As for Manx, perhaps spending half the book comatose was a bit too much. I never felt an urgent sense of peril from him, maybe because he had others, like Bing and the kids, do his dirty work (mostly). Much more though, and it would have perhaps gone against his character, as he was more nuanced then a straight-up evil guy.
The ending, for all the build-up, could have been more nuanced and longer, though the final chapter actually made up for that - and the final, final couple paragraphs added a nice, bloody veneer.
Where does the book fail, for me? I never really connected strongly to any of the characters. Maybe that was my fault because it was a sporadic reading over a couple months (or maybe that says enough about them itself). It felt more plotted than pantsed; a series of moments that the characters experienced rather than actively worked for. Vic showed too much maternal strength towards the end to make her earlier failings realistic (though I concede things like this are redemptive arcs etc etc). I think mostly it came down to the writing, and I have to say, Hill's writing in the two I've read just feels a bit plain, flairless. His father's work has more 'grit', more of an edge, and whenever I saw instances here it felt a little forced, playing at 'King'. The story was great, but the writing just lacked something that I can't put my finger on.
View all my reviews