I've had this book on my radar for a long while. I've had friends recommend, and one friend literally hand me a copy to read. And yet, it sat in my to-be-read pile towering over me for months. Until, that is, I needed a Christmas themed book to review and wasn't having luck finding one I really enjoyed enough to review.
A friend casually pointed out that Christmas plays a big part in N0S4A2 and "oh by the way you've had my copy for months and need to read it so I can have it back." So I dove in without much clue what to expect.
The story is difficult to describe without it sounding a little batty. A killer, Manx, in a car that can take him and the children he's stolen to a magical world called ChristmasLand where unhappiness is forbidden. A girl, Vic, who can find things and go exactly where she needs to go by riding her bike across an old bridge that shouldn't exist. Their paths intersect when the bridge sends Vic straight to Manx' world and she ends his rampage for a time. Now Manx is back and out for revenge and Vic has to summon up her old bridge to find a way to stop the killer for good.
So, the novel is told through several points of view, most predominatly through Vic's point of view but there are several other points of view that you see the story through, victims, murderers, and witnesses to the strange. And even the very prose of the text mimics the jumping magic that Vic's bridge gives her. The text will cut off literally in the middle of a phrase and leap into the next chapter as Vic jumps from place to place with her bridge.
One of my favorite parts of the novel is the images in text and the clever use of text I've never seen before. Backwards sentences, vertical words and patterns across the page. I loved the playfulness of words, and the fact that scrabble tiles play a big role as well. There's a clear love of language here and I adore that.
We see Vic go from kid to grown woman who has to defend herself and her family from Manx on the prowl for revenge, all while she tries to find what's real and how to manage the real world. The lead up to the showdown tensed my whole body. I wasn't sure how in the world Vic was going to manage to win this showdown, and every time I turned the page things seemed to be getting worse and worse. Hill really turns the tension to 11 and leaves it there. Even after the final showdown is over there are lingering problems and I couldn't relax until the very last page when things had been answered.
Over all, it took me a bit of time to really get into N0S4A2. I tend to not jump into books with multiple points of view and the jumping povs and timeshifts took some adjusting to. But Hill tells a tightly wound story where I couldn't figure out what would happen next, and that kept me turning pages and diving into each character's chapter and towards the final showdown.
It certainly left a bit of dark, twisted look at what happens when Christmas joy goes very, very wrong. Manx' focus on all joy and not unhappiness leads to a twisted place where joy can be found even in horror. While Manx promises the children they are going to a place of wonder and magic, all they discover is a world where horrors give them joy and murder is the game of the season.
I'm not sure N0S4A2 is the best Christmas read for everyone but if you like horror, and your holidays a bit dark and twisted than curling up with some hot cocoa and a copy of Joe Hill's N0S4A2 might be the perfect way to pass Christmas day.
You can buy your copy of N0S4A2 here or at your local indie bookstore.