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Joe Hill
William Morrow / HarperCollins
US Trade Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-062-20057-0
Publication Date: 04-30-2013
696 Pages; $28.99
Date Reviewed: 06-28-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  General Fiction  Science Fiction

Books can succeed, be worth your valuable reading time, in a variety of ways. Joe Hill's 'NOS4A2' is an immense success on two very different levels. Pick this book up in your local independent bookstore, and start reading it. Your next memory will be standing in front of the cashier paying for it. After that, prepare to surrender all your spare time to an intense, and intensely pleasurable to read modern horror story.

But memory is important in the reading of this book. A week after you finish, a month after you finish, years after you finish, you'll be able to go back and visit the places in the book, check in with the characters in this book again and again. There's a level of detail that immerses you in an experience so rich it will rival moments in your life.

'NOS4A2' is fun, very chilling, pleasantly surreal enough to map nicely against the actual weirdness that surrounds us. It's filled with stuff of life; screwed up families who manage to love one another in spite of all their human faults, men who are born bad and become worse, women who manage to carve a path through the obstacles of late 20th century and early 21st century American life, and children forced to grow up faster than their parents.

Hill tells his story with the easy assurance of a man who has something very complicated on his mind but has sorted it out into easy-to-grok tales. Victoria McQueen can find things. She can travel in a manner that is utterly impossible and totally believable. Charlie Manx has an unusual means of transport as well. He's used his gift, or perhaps it has used him, to turn children into monsters. Inevitably, these highways will cross one another. The collision will result in fatalities.

The layered revelations and plotting of 'NOS4A2' make putting together the puzzle of what is going on a true pleasure. Hill gives us a huge cast of characters but he makes each one unforgettable in their own right. Moreover, he actually likes all his characters, even the reprehensible ones, to the degree that they are all human and prone to error. In a book that tops out at just a smidge under 700 pages, Hill expertly orchestrates the tension on a variety of levels; plot character, the supernatural elements and the real-world crime elements. Every page begs you seek the one that follows.

Amid all the fantastic plot elements, great supernatural conceits, and wonderful characters we enjoy spending time with, it's easy to miss the primary fuel that drives this vehicle — Hill's alternately lovely, powerful, entertaining and chilling prose. There's a lot of terror in this book, but, as readers will realize in retrospect, not so much gore or even violence. Don't worry, there's enough to keep you sated. But Hill's a master at the telling detail, the finely-turned phrase that implies more than it says. There are a lot of great sentences here.

'NOS4A2' marks a striking return for the big, Dickensian horror novels that came of age in the 1980's. It's a ripping yarn about a damsel who puts herself in distress to save others and a thick slice of life in the here-and-now. Hill's use of the supernatural to evoke the horrors of this world is both entertaining and demonstrative of a deeply intuitive understanding of the perils of parenthood, the terrors and joys that turn every day into a series of increasingly dicey choices. 'NOS4A2' is a vehicle to take the reader on a vacation in purgatory. The memories you have may not be good, but they won't be yours, exactly. But you'll return to them, with the pleasure that only reading a great book can provide. Heaven and hell, not so far apart you've been led to believe.

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