Thursday, 5 February 2015

Book Review: N0S4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars, but Goodreads will not allow for such a crazy thing.

For a while, I had a room mate. I mention her because she had an intense fear of Count Orlok from 1922's Nosferatu. When she first told me, I sort of snickered, I couldn't imagine anyone being afraid of that, even after she went on to explain how he was possibly designed as anti-semetic propaganda (Google it). She literally cannot even look at him.

But while Count Orlok is indeed an unsettling figure, he never scared me. That's the ultimate problem I had with this book.

Old Count Orlok looking dude with a "daffy, dim-witted" overbite, is not scary.

Christmas themed vampire car with a will of it's own is not scary.

Charles Talent Manx III is not scary.

Children and parents missing without a trace? That's scary.

Demonic ghost-children calling you from a phone only you can hear ringing? That's scary.

Man-child with anesthetic gas, wearing a gasmask, who's into necrophilia? That's scary.

But Manx was our main antagonist and he wasn't scary. No one seemed scared of him, not even the kids. Consequently, I didn't care about Manx. His henchman, Bing, was much, much scarier.

So, the premise is, much like The Maxx (Which, holy crap Mr. Gone to take Manx without even blinking.), everyone has their own inner world, or Inscape. Some people are 'fortunate' enough to have a key to reach into their Inscape. Manx has a old Rolls-Royce Wraith with the license plate N0S4A2 which takes him to Christmasland while Victoria, our protagonist, has a bridge that helps her find lost things. There are others, (Can we please have a story about The Walking Backwards Man Manx mentioned, Mr Hill?) but those two are the ones the story really focuses on.

There's usually a cost to using their totem.

The story takes place over a great length of time, we meet Vic as a young girl with her discovery of her bridge, as a troubled teenager, as an adult, and we see gradually how much the encounters with Inscapes and those who can access them drive her slowly mad.

And that was what I liked.

I really, really liked the human characters. I liked how Vic and Lou were flawed. Victoria no doubt went through a traumatic experience with Manx and I was far more invested in the human drama of coping, family, love, expectations, self-worth and sanity than this supernatural stuff. Vic and Lou felt real, or real enough. They were genuine. They loved each other, but in any other story, Lou, for example, would just be a dimwitted ugly fat bastard. But their love felt real and genuine and I just wanted more of that. To the point of whenever we got back to Manx I kind of just...groaned.

I also read the companion comic book mini-series The Wraith, which barely left an impression on me. I'm sorry, I don't care about Manx and 7 comic books about him aren't going to change that. I was far more interested in Millie and Lorrie than Manx and was happy to see them show up in the novel.

Do I recommend this book? I don't know. There are parts I really, really enjoyed and to it's credit it didn't go where I thought it would, with courageous heroic sacrifices or things like that, and Manx is certainly a unique sort of vampire, but Manx and Christmasland come across as silly. If you like stories about a strong woman coping with severe supernatural trauma, go for it, but if you want horror, you're probably better served looking for something else.

Mr. Hill, your father already wrote this book, and it was called Christine.

View all my reviews


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