Review: N0S4A2 by Joe Hill



William Morrow | 2013

Filed Under: I’ve never read Stephen King before

OMG, I HAVE FINALLY READ THIS FUCKING BOOK. What’s it been, 30 years?!

I’m tired, guys. I’m so so tired.

I feel like I just escaped from Christmasland and my life force is nearly drained.

My head hurts. I think this book gave me a headache – that’s how intense it was.

The gist is Victoria ‘Vic’ McQueen can travel across a covered bridge on her bike and arrive on the other side wherever she wants to be.

Charlie Manx can drive his vintage 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith to a supernatural amusement park, which he created, called Christmasland. And the Rolls Royce is the key to getting in. On his way there, he kidnaps children. During the ride, the kids are drained of their life force in order to keep Manx alive, because you see, he’s a few hundred years old. Can’t let that decay start sloughing off body parts, can we?

“She told me about Charlie Manx. She warned me about him. She said there was a man, a bad man with a bad car. He used his car to suck the life out of children. He was a kind of vampire – a road vampire.”

Christmasland is a beautiful place full of gumdrop houses, Christmas lights and snowmen who never melt. It’s also populated with the ghoulish, decomposing children kidnapped and sucked dry by Manx. These children have pointy little teeth and their favourite pastime is killing people and eating them – especially adults.


I mean, if you were planning a family vacation, I would definitely consider this place. Chomp, chomp!

Anyone who’s tried to abduct a child – and we’ve all been there – knows that it’s not an easy task. And Manx, who is a creepy old vampire-esque creature crossed with a sinister Pied Piper, is not exactly the most enticing stranger to talk to. Even if he had puppies I wouldn’t talk to him. Even if he was holding my husband hostage. Sorry sweetie, enjoy Christmasland! So, Manx, in all his infinite wisdom, knows that he needs help. He enlists the weirdest fucking character I’ve ever read, Bing. Bing uses psychotropic drugs to help with the kidnapping process and has earned the nickname The Gas Mask Man.

One day, teenage Vic is using her special power, which she still doesn’t quite understand, and ends up crossing paths with Manx who is in the process of abducting a child off to Christmasland. Vic, being the trouble-seeking but-heart-of-gold girl that she is, decides to rescue this abducted kid. She fails, obviously, and in the process is almost kidnapped too. But, she escapes and uses the experience to help put Manx into prison where he lives for a decade before he dies.

The only problem is after his body is autopsied, it disappears from the morgue.

And honestly, that is just the beginning setup of this novel. It goes on and on and on from here. So much shit happens I can’t even begin to explain. Vic’s life alone could be a standalone novel: estranged parents, alcoholism, mental hospital stays, having a son, abandoning her son and reuniting with her son. Not to mention all the secondary characters who get fully fleshed out scenes and backstories. Like the librarian who receives supernatural messages. Or Bing, who is borderline in love with Manx and it really creeped me out. Or Lou, the lovable doof of a father to Vic’s son.

I think this is probably the longest novel I’ve read outside of Outlander. And I’ve come to a decision. I’m not a 700-page-thicc-novel kind of girl. And that reflects in my rating.

Really, I’m going to go take a nap. I’ll be back…

…okay, I’m back. Literally, I just slept for 10 hours.

“So to recap: There’s one version of your life where Charlie Manx, a dirty ol’ fuckin’ child murderer, kidnapped you from a train station. And you only barely got away from him. That’s the official memory. But then there’s this other version where you crossed an imaginary bridge on a psychically powered bicycle and tracked him down in Colorado all on your own. And that’s the unofficial memory.”

Now that Manx has “escaped” from prison and Vic is an adult, he’s looking for revenge. And the only way he knows how to ruin her the way she ruined him, is through her son Wayne.

The path Vic has to take to get her son back from Manx before he reaches Christmasland is the most fucking insane, jam-packed, twisted adventure I’ve ever been on. Vic is one tough-ass bitch. I gather from other reviews that some readers didn’t particularly like her, but she was the best part of this novel for me. Damaged, flawed and tragic but sassy and full of love if given the chance.

I’m not coming at this book with any Stephen King-related bias because I’ve never read Stephen King before! That’s right!

Joe Hill gets me pure for this reading experience.

This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It was a completely different reading experience from what I’m used to. It was detailed and inventive and creepy and funny and totally odd and weird. It was good. But I didn’t fall head over heels for it the way other readers have.

I’ve heard there are some Stephen King easter eggs scattered throughout – I picked up on literally none of them. Is it a love letter to Hill’s famous father? I’ve heard as much, but again I have no fucking clue! To me, this was a new author, a new concept, a new book – no strings attached.

And I did like it. But I didn’t love it.

There are certain things I want from a novel and I didn’t get that here. I will say though, that the ideas in this novel are things that will stay with me for a very long time. I’ll never forget my trip to Christmasland.


NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

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.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. 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.

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