“NOS4R2”/“NOS4A2” by Joe Hill (Gollancz/William Morrow)

HillJ-NOS4R2A slow-burning suspense

Summer. Massachusetts.

An old Silver Wraith with a frightening history. A story about one serial killer and his lingering, unfinished business.

Anyone could be next.

We’re going to Christmasland…

I’m not a big reader of horror. I’m not really sure why, though, as I tend to be attracted to darker and more twisted tales. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed some of Hill’s previous writing, and after reading a little bit about NOS4R2, I eagerly awaited its arrival.

Despite that, and perhaps inevitably, I was not really in the mood for horror when I first started to read NOS4R2. Rather than letting this ruin it for me, I decided to put it aside and got back to it recently. I’m glad I did this, too: this is a pretty solid suspense/horror novel, sure to appeal to his existing fans and also new readers (with caveats). The novel is also, frustratingly, very difficult to review – and doubly so if I want to avoid any form of spoiler.

Once again, therefore, I find myself at a loss for how to review something by Joe Hill. Seriously. I’m completely stumped. His other work that I struggle to review is his Locke & Key comic series, a story that shares some similar sensibilities and aesthetics as NOS4R2. Both are heavily character-focused, with a slow-burning plot that allows for great tension and suspense to build brilliantly. It’s not action-packed (though there is some conflict), there are a fair few surprises, and some really creepy scenes.

I must admit that I did find the start a little slower than I would normally like, and this maybe influenced my decision to put it aside for a short while. Given how long the book is (the ARC is 700 pages, or there about), I think some people may not have the patience for Hill’s pacing. When I was about a third of the way through, even I couldn’t help but think, “When are things going to kick off?” However, when I allowed myself to just sit and read (recently, life has been very disruptive and stop-start), I found myself swept up by Hill’s prose and story, drawn on through the novel.

HillJ-NOS4A2The author manages to make the mundane fascinating – the little details of these characters’ lives, their thoughts and every-day concerns… In many authors’ hands, this attention to detail would be suffocating and perhaps tedious, giving the novel a bloated feel. Not so for Hill; when added to the creepy goings-on related to Christmasland and its master, Charles Manx, he spins a fascinating, engrossing, suspenseful tale.

I found his characters all too realistic, in a way. This is, in my opinion, Hill’s greatest talent: despite writing creepy, weird, oft-supernatural stories, his characters have a vividly real feel to them. Victoria McQueen, the protagonist, feels complete, fully realised and familiar, and in some ways we grow up with her over the course of the novel: first meeting her as a child, when she first gets her special bike and stumbles across her strange ability. Then time jumps ahead to her rebellious adolescence and onwards, as her childhood brush with information of the Silver Wraith and Manx, and her confrontations with him later.

As I said at the start, I have no real idea of how to review Hill’s work. Nothing I try seems to convey the atmosphere and feel of the author’s work appropriately.

Needless to say, if you have any interest in classic, literary horror fiction, then NOS4R2 is for you. Recommended.

Also by Joe Hill: Horns, Heart-Shaped Box, 20th Century Ghosts, Locke & Key Vols.1-5

Also Try: Benjamin Percy, Justin Cronin, Stephen King, Adam Neville

What Should I Read Next…?

I’m incredibly indecisive when it comes to picking my next read. Usually. There are times, of course, when nothing is going to stop me reading a particular book. (Most recently, that was the case with Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War, despite my intended wish to mix things up  a bit more… I loved it, so it worked out in the end. Later in the year, it’ll be Scott Lynch’s Republic of Thieves.)

I currently find myself in one of these moments of indecisiveness. Here are the options (followed, after the break, but synopses):


Richard Ford’s Herald of the Storm (Headline)

Welcome to Steelhaven…

Under the reign of King Cael the Uniter, this vast cityport on the southern coast has for years been a symbol of strength, maintaining an uneasy peace throughout the Free States.

But now a long shadow hangs over the city, in the form of the dread Elharim warlord, Amon Tugha. When his herald infiltrates the city, looking to exploit its dangerous criminal underworld, and a terrible dark magick that has long been buried once again begins to rise, it could be the beginning of the end.

Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere (Orbit)

Some places are too good to be true.

Under a pink moon, there is a perfect little town not found on any map.

In that town, there are quiet streets lined with pretty houses, houses that conceal the strangest things.

After a couple years of hard traveling, ex-cop Mona Bright inherits her long-dead mother’s home in Wink, New Mexico. And the closer Mona gets to her mother’s past, the more she understands that the people of Wink are very, very different…

From one of our most talented and original new literary voices comes the next great American supernatural novel: a work that explores the dark dimensions of the hometowns and the neighbours we thought we knew.

Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon (Hodder)

They live among us.

They are your neighbour, your mother, your lover.

They change.

Every teenage girl thinks she’s different. When government agents kick down Claire Forrester’s front door and murder her parents, Claire realizes just how different she is.

Patrick Gamble was nothing special until the day he got on a plane and hours later stepped off it, the only passenger left alive, a hero.

President Chase Williams has sworn to protect the people of the United States from the menace in their midst, but is becoming the very thing he has promised to destroy.

So far the threat has been controlled by laws and violence and drugs. But the night of the red moon is coming, when an unrecognizable world will emerge, and the battle for humanity will begin.

Joe Hill’s NOS-4R2 (Gollancz)

Summer. Massachusetts.

An old Silver Wraith with a frightening history. A story about one serial killer and his lingering, unfinished business.

Anyone could be next.

We’re going to Christmasland…

NOS4A2 is an old-fashioned horror novel in the best sense. Claustrophobic, gripping and terrifying, this is a story that will have you on the edge of the seat while you read, and leaving the lights on while you sleep. With the horrific tale of Charles Manx and his Silver Wraith, Joe Hill has established himself as the premiere horror and supernatural thriller writer of his generation.

C. Robert Cargill’s Dreams and Shadows (Gollancz)

DREAMS AND SHADOWS takes us beyond the veil, through the lives of Ewan and Colby, young men whose spirits have been enmeshed with the otherworld from a young age.

This brilliantly-crafted narrative follows the boys from their star-crossed adolescences to their haunted adulthoods; and takes us inside the Limestone Kingdom, a parallel universe where whisky-swilling genies and foul-mouthed wizards argue over the state of the metaphysical realm. Having left the spirit world and returned to the human world, Ewan and Colby discover that the creatures from this previous life have not forgotten them, and that fate can never be sidestepped.

Of course, I may ignore all of your suggestions anyway, but it will nevertheless be interesting to see what you would like to feature on the site.

It’s also my 30th birthday this coming Friday, and I’m hoping for some Amazon vouchers, so I can get Kindle editions of the third book in Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series and also Joe Abercrombie’s Last Argument of Kings (have become a bit of a fanboy for this series, now…),* so those will likely follow shortly after whichever choice I make from this selection.

Which would you recommend? If you can find the comments, please do leave your suggestions. (Apparently, some browsers are having a difficult time with the new blog template, but I can’t figure out how to fix this or change it back… Apologies about that.)

* Review of Before They Are Hanged tomorrow.