Since it’s Christmas Eve I figured it’s the perfect day to talk about Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. If you wish it was Christmas every day you might change your mind after reading this book.
Charlie Manx is a vampire-like creature who lives in Christmasland. It might sound like a cool place and that’s exactly what Manx wants all the little kids to think. Manx is not of the typical variety of blood-sucking vampires. Instead he drains the life force out of his child victims, which gives him eternal life and turns them into murderous little demons.
NOS4A2 is the first book of Hill’s that I ever read and I loved it. I have since read Horns and several of the short stories in 20th Century Ghosts.
What I love about NOS4A2 is the very realistic setting Hill paints before thrusting his characters into the extraordinary. Manx’s adversary is a young girl named Vic McQueen. We first meet Vic as a child. Vic likes to escape her troubled childhood on her Raleigh Tuff Burner bicycle. It’s on one of these rides where Vic discovers she has an unusual power.
She can transport herself places via a covered bridge nicknamed the “Shorter Way Bridge.” The bridge leads her to things she needs. In her childhood that was mainly lost items, but as she grew other another purpose for Vic’s ability began to form.
We spend a lot of time getting to know Vic before she ever encounters Charlie Manx. Hill does a great job transitioning Vic from precocious child to a troubled teen and even more troubled adult. That transition is something I’ve thought about a lot during my life.
How many times do we see a child in a difficult situation and wonder at what point they will give up on their childhood innocence. When will they stop caring about school, their goals, and doing the right thing? We’ve all seen it happen, whether it’s friends or family, maybe even ourselves. In NOS4A2 we see it happen and we want nothing more than to see Vic gain back the strong sense of self she had in her childhood.
So we have a great lead character to root for and added to that a horrible villain we want to see her get the better of. Manx preys upon children just like Vic, the ones who are innocent and good in their adolescence. Manx steals them before they can become the troubled adults he knows they will. In his own way Manx thinks he is saving these children from a bad life.
NOS4A2 is one of those books I didn’t want to end, even though it’s pretty long. Despite the story wrapping up, I wanted to stay with the characters a little longer. This book is highly recommended.