I decided to reread NOS4R2 as my Halloween read this year. It first landed on my review pile a couple of years ago, along with Horns, and I loved them both immensely. And so I’ve just realised that I haven’t officially reviewed NOS4R2 yet, which is incredibly sloppy of me. So, here it is.
NOS4R2 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.
From about the beginning of October, I start to get twitchy, waiting for the holidays to roll around. Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas… From September through to the end of December is my favourite time of year. I love autumn, and this autumn has been particularly spectacular. Leaves of fire falling from the trees; an ominous fog over Halloween weekend; stories to scare yourself silly with. NOS4R2 is the perfect holiday story, because it’s terrifying enough to suit Halloween, but it also features the magic of Christmas. Well, Christmasland.
I’m one of those annoying people who has almost all their Christmas gifts bought by November (FYI, we start in June, using Prime Day to grab deals, and usually finish off on Black Friday). We’ve wrapped most of our presents already. Our house will be decorated the first weekend of December; walking into The Range last week was like walking into Christmasland itself. Though probably less terrifying. We almost bought everything. Anyway.
NOS4R2 is the tale of Vic McQueen, aka The Brat, and her journeys across the Shortaway Bridge. Young Vic uses the bridge to find stuff – her mother’s bracelet, left in a diner on their way back from holiday; her father’s cherished photo, left in her locker; the neighbour’s cat, dead in the woods. But she doesn’t find them in the usual sense. The bridge takes her wherever she needs to go, no matter how far away, or whether she even knows where she’s going.
Charlie Manx uses his Rolls-Royce in a similar way. He finds children who are in danger from their own parents, and whisks them away to Christmasland, where they live forever in holiday happiness. Manx and Vic come face-to-face when she lands her bridge in his front garden. She runs from him and hides in the house, which he sets on fire, and Vic barely escapes with her life. She finds help in the form of Lou, who she later marries, and has a kid with, Bruce Wayne (yup). Manx is caught and thrown in jail, and lies in the prison hospital, for all intents and purposes, comatose.
But Vic is haunted by Manx and his Christmasland children. They want Manx back, and they blame Vic for locking him away. So does Bing, Manx’s latest “helper”, a disturbed man who killed both his parents and “deals with” the mothers of the rescued children. When Bruce Wayne goes missing, Vic knows there’s only one person who could have him. Manx is back, and Vic has to save her son.
NOS4R2 is fast-paced, exhilarating, and, excuse my French, shit scary. Manx will invade your dreams, attempt to drag you off to Christmasland. Christmas songs will never sound the same again. If you haven’t already read NOS4R2, now is the perfect time to do so, to get you into the Christmas spirit (or put you off forever!).
Read my review of The Fireman, Joe Hill’s latest work, here.