With a story that stretches over twenty years and dangers that cross from the imagination to the real world, it’s a testament to Joe Hill’s ability as a storyteller that NOS4R2 flies over the difficult structure like Vic McQueen’s Triumph.
When young Vic McQueen rides her cherished bike she can create a bridge that will take her anywhere she wants to go.
All she has to do is think of a place, and the bridge will take her there. But she’s not the only one with this gift. Ageless monster Charlie Manx prowls America’s highways in his Rolls Royce Phantom, kidnapping children and taking them to the magical and terrifying Christmasland as he and the car feed on their souls.
NOS4R2 has all the author’s hallmarks: the deeply flawed hero, the magical gifts with a terrible price, and the pitch black sense of humour.
Vic McQueen is very much a Hill protagonist; she has to suffer, not just for her gift, but for her redemption as a wife and mother. NOS4R2 splits its narrative between her struggles and the escapades of Charles Talent Manx and his Renfield-esque companion Bing Patridge. Manx’s theatrical personality and the candycane nightmare that is Christmasland present the contrast to McQueen’s hardscrabble life, and each is developed in rich detail.
While it’s Hill’s most sprawling novel to date, NOS4R2 contains some of his finest writing yet.
He stretches tense sequences to an almost unbearable length, presents us with terrifying monsters and heart-rending heroes, and gives us another darkly funny and scabrously nightmarish journey. Crucially, Vic’s journey is one that you will want to see through to the end.
It may wobble occasionally, but it’s a hell of a ride.