Audiobook Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

11 06 2013

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Read by Kate Mulgrew

Harper Audio

Length: 19 Hrs 41 Min

Genre: Horror

Quick Thoughts: . Joe Hill’s latest novel is lush vivid horror tale full of wonderful characters, and unsettling imagery. Hill manages to take the thing we love best, the innocence and joy of Christmas time, and flip it on its head, making it a representation of all that we fear. NOS4A2 is brilliantly executed, leaving a lingering affect on the reader long after it is over.

Grade: A-

Surprisingly, I can be a stubborn person. Before beginning NOS4A2 by Joe Hill I took a spin around the ole information super byway or whatever to get a glimpse of the reaction to this book. While I try to avoid reviews due to spoilers, sometime I like to get a sense of the reaction to a book before taking the leap. In my perusal of the thoughts of the elite of humanity who could find their way onto the complex sites of the internet to state their opinions I came upon one rant about how Joe Hill was actually just Stephen King writing books for his son. The person writing this was so full of hate and disgust that the son of THE popular novelist of out time could have success on his own, that he developed these elaborate theories that, while lacking much sense, never lacked in vitriol. So I decided, heck, I will review NOS4A2 without even mentioning Hill’s famous father. Then I began to listen….GODDAMIT JOE HILL! He just wouldn’t make it easy. With haunted cars, interdimensional travel, children changed irreversibly through the lingering affects of magic, quirky strange characters and vivid imagery, we were one mystic minority away from a Stephen King novel. Now, I’m pushing it. There are moments in NOS4A2 that are a definitely homage to his fathers writing, especially his earlier work, yet there was enough there that was decidedly unique. Maybe I could still pull off my goal. Then, Bing, a character called The Gasmask Man screams at Charlie Manx, the novel’s main antagonist "My Life for You!" COME ON! As someone who lists The Stand as his favorite novel, how can I just skip over the obvious use of Trashcan Man’s famous line and not bring it up in my review. I am pretty damn sure Joe Hill is just fucking with everyone. GODDAMIT JOE HILL!

When Victoria "Vic" McQueen was young, she imagined she had a bike that leads her to find lost things through the portal of The Shorter Way Bridge. The same magical bridge that leads her to The Slay House, home of Charlie Manx, famed child abductor and suspected serial killer. Yet, Vic knew it was all just her mind creating an escape from the horrific acts she blocked out at the hands of Manx. As are the children, Charlie Manx’s other victims, calling her from Christmasland that were left behind.  Well, Charlie has his own magical vehicle, the Rolls Royce with the licensed plate NOS4A2 and they are not done with Vic McQueen yet. Joe Hill’s latest novel is lush vivid horror tale full of wonderful characters, and unsettling imagery. Hill manages to take the thing we love best, the innocence and joy of Christmas time, and flip it on its head, making it a representation of all that we fear. NOS4A2 is brilliantly executed, leaving a lingering affect on the reader long after it is over. The core to any good horror novel is its characters. If we can’t buy into the flawed yet likable characters of a horror novel, than often the affect of the elaborate events placed before the characters are lost on us. Hill has created some of the most memorable characters I have experienced in a long time. In fact, one of his characters, Lou may be my spirit animal. With Lou, Hill again flips our expectations, this time on the idea of heroism. Lou is a fat, content slacker who only wants to love his kid, geek out to stuff and protect the women who he loves from herself, yet Lou may be the most heroic character in this, and many other novels. Sure, I think the ending of the book ties his story up a little too cleanly, with the transformational "he’s skinny and now he’s a new man" angle, the road to that point was refreshingly unique. There was so much to love in NOS4A2 that it was easy to skip over its flaws. Sure, Hill uses some heavy handed foreshadowing, and often times he spent way too long developing small parts of his novel then glossing over more important things like how Charlie Manx became what he was, but, these flaws only highlighted so much of the other moments of pure horror fun this book is full of. NOS4A2 is a book that I think 100 people can read, and all of them come back loving it for completely different reasons (and probably being annoyed at 100 different parts as well.) It’s a horror novel that doesn’t skimp on the scares, yet manages to take standard horror themes and spin them in ways you weren’t expecting.

I could probably find some flaws in Kate Mulgrew’s narration as well. Well, maybe one. But why bother.  Her reading… no, her performance of NOS4A2 was stunning, and wonderful and just so much fun to listen to. Mulgrew just threw it all out there and went with it. It was utterly engrossing, and never for a moment boring. Honestly, I was worried that my secret Janeway crush would affect my listening to her performance. but it didn’t. Not in the least. Once I got past the initial, "OMG I’m Listening to Kate Mulgrew" I was in the story, and never broke away. Her pacing was perfect, really driving the narrative, and her characters were all memorable and lovingly realized. She handled male, female and children characters with equal aplomb. As a special bonus, the audiobook includes an afterward where Joe Hill not only talks about the book, but his love of audiobooks and his appreciation of his narrator. As an avid audiobook supporter, it may have given me chills. MAY HAVE! NOS4A2 was a joy to listen to, and another great example of what makes audiobooks special. Now, more Kate!

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7 responses

11 06 2013
Dave Thompson

Ha. It was very hard for me not to write in my review: This is the most Stephen King book Joe Hill has written, for much the same reasons 🙂

Glad you liked Kate Mulgrew’s reading. Seriously check out Shadow Show if you ever get a chance and want to hear more. The Hill story that she read for it is one of my favorite stories in a long time.

(I liked the book, but am a little bummed about the way Hill dealt with one of the characters at the end. Just enough to complain, not enough to dislike the book.)

11 06 2013
DWD

I learned something today, Mr. Earlobe. I had no idea that Stephen King’s kids were writing and then I found this interview with both of his sons (http://www.vulture.com/2013/04/joe-hill-owen-king-interview.html ) and it was entertaining (BTW, Joe Hill says in the interview that in NOS4A2 he decided “Instead of running from the Stephen King stuff, I’m gonna run at it.”).

Plus, this sounds like a great book.

14 06 2013
BarkLessWagMore (@FMMFC)

I must read this one next. Great review, as always 🙂

14 06 2013
Laurie C

I didn’t know Kate Mulgrew read the audio of NOS4A2! Now I will have to listen to it instead of reading it! (Also, I never realized how those characters came together to form Nosferatu until just now, typing them out. Duh!)

11 11 2013
Running down the Lists: 2013 early edition; and! a contest! | The AudioBookaneers

[…] “20 pretty incredible hours of storytelling” in his review, and The Guilded Earlobe calls the novel “brilliantly […]

2 06 2014
Whispersync Monthly Deals for June 2014: Ben Winters, Joyce Carol Oates, Joe Hill, Marcus Sakey, Elmore Leonard, and more | The AudioBookaneers

[…] has trouble understanding it herself.” Dave loved this audiobook, and it made both his and The Guilded Earlobe‘s best of the year lists. And now thanks to this ridiculous deal, I can cross it off my […]

24 09 2015
Listen to NOS4A2 Narrated by Kate Mulgrew - Shelfie Blog

[…] Read the rest of the review on The Guilded Earlobe. […]

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