NOS4A2: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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The spine-tingling, bone-chilling novel of supernatural suspense from the number one New York Times best-selling author of The Fireman and Horns - now an AMC original series starring Zachary Quinto, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Ashleigh Cummings.
"A masterwork of horror." (Time)
Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be.
Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland.
The journey across the highway of Charlie's twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.
Then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble...and finds her way to Charlie. That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie's evil is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx hasn't stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won't slow down until he's taken his revenge. He's after something very special - something Vic can never replace.
As a life-and-death battle of wills builds, Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all - or die trying.
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|Listening Length||19 hours and 41 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||April 30, 2013|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #4,095 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#48 in Psychological Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#114 in Horror Fiction
#202 in Psychological Thrillers (Audible Books & Originals)
Reviewed in the United States on March 30, 2022
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Top reviews from the United States
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From the first page, I was instantly hooked. Although the characters seemed brash and unlikable, I found I began to have an empathetic stance towards Vic-- the trauma she experienced, and the PTSD that overtook her life.
I thought the book had an interesting story development and plot, falling right in line with the hero's journey. Not only was I completely engrossed in the supernatural aspects of the book, but I also enjoyed unraveling the clues and trying to solve them along the way.
The novel seems to be centered around pain, regrets, healing, and forgiveness; all things that makes us human. Without emotions and empathy, evil takes form.
After reading this book, I purchased The Fireman. The new book will be here soon, and I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be as good--or even better--than this one!
Joe Hill might have come up with a different word for "slipstream", but having it used less than 10 times in a work of this length is not so bad. When he ended one chapter talking about how bad the conditions on the road were, he did not really have to start the very next chapter reiterating the same thing. There, that's basically all I could find not to like in this huge work.
Some complain that he could have told the story in a more concise rendering. Perhaps they are correct. All I can say is that Joe Hill is a true artist with the language and there is not one paragraph in the entire book that was not masterfully written. I particularly like the way he would incorporate things into the novel that reflected not only the evil possible in the "vampire" kids", but the evil that is possible in all humans. I imagine some of this is the result of his editors, whom he so graciously praises. I really liked how the bats in the bridge came to mean more than bats in the bridge. It just added so much more to the meaning of the story and took away any chance that the ending would seem rambling and not very meaningful.
I read Joe Hill for the same reason I read the Silo series by Hugh Howey. Both are masters of the language and just a pleasure to read. I love reading authors who use the language with the same degree of artistry that was used, and taken more for granted, in much earlier works like The Forsyte Saga.
Joe Hill is that kind of an author. He has raised the bar very high. I am a picky reader. NOS4A2 was a pleasure to read insofar as the characters, the plot, the pacing (I know others might disagree on this one), the outcome and the feeling that I came away from the book knowing a little more about something than before I started it.
I will say that I read the immersive version on my Kindle Fire HD. The reading was excellent, as Joe Hill himself acknowledges. The only problems I had were the not-so-unusual ones of a few words being added or deleted in places. The was one place, towards the end of the book, that the next chapter would start, but the page would never turn and had to be turned manually. This was a little worse than it had to be, because in the immersive reading, they would not turn the page until AFTER the title of the next chapter had been read and so the reader kept thinking it was going to turn, as it had before, but would not do so without help this time.
But that has nothing to do with the wonderful artistry of Joe Hill. I used to be sort of a book snob and did not read much along these lines, as I had fallen in love with great writing when I was fortunate enough to take several courses, such as Early Novels of the 20th Century, and others, at large universities. I got use to good writing and it was irritating to settle for less. Stephen King convinced me that good writing was available in some of his works, like The Dome. Hugh Howey, in every sentence of every book in his Silo series and now Joe Hill with NOS4A2.
Joe Hill set the bar ever so high with this book and I look forward to enjoying future works of his. I cannot say a book was overlong when every paragraph was so artfully written and a pleasure to read. Joe Hill has mentioned that he was in the shadow of his father and that maybe that was not such a bad place to be. I think Stephen King, himself, would say that Joe Hill does not need to feel like he is in the shadow of anyone. I was unaware that Stephen King was his son, until after a friend talked me into giving this book a try. Mr. Hill was lucky enough to grow up in a home with two writers. I started this book feeling like he was out to prove that he had read his father's book on writing, I did not have to get very far into it, before I realized that Mr. Hill was a talent that did not need any excuse; he is a major talent that stands on his own accomplishments. Having had a major stroke and having to relearn English, it is a joy to read works that are so well written. I feel like my experience and the desire it took to rehab after such an event puts me in a position to really appreciate such outstanding talent. Knowing what Stephen King has been through in his own life, I can imagine he feels much the same way.
Just an outstandingly good job in the use of language, pacing, characterizations. This is from a VERY PICKY reader! Congrats to all who played any part on bringing this book to market!
This campy little story is an uplifting tale of the road, um make that bridge, all 685 pages of it. It features the victorious Victoria, who while mounted on her triumphant Triumph, takes on the metaphysical vampire Charlie Manx, and his 1938 Wraith (Charlie: "I am the car and the car is me"). It is the worthy quest to annihilate Christmasland where all is amusement at the expense of suffering and unhappiness that ultimately makes it possible to be empathetic and human.
Our heroine, Vic to her friends, is one three characters whose minds have the ability to create vehicles that allow their consciousness (and in Vic's and Charlie's cases their corporeal beings as well) to travel through time and space. For Vic, the vehicle is a bridge (between lost & found over what was possible). For her friend Maggie, it's Scrabble tiles that convey clairvoyant answers to questions, and Charlie gets the 1938 Wraith Rolls Royce. Each vehicle is an extension of the character's mind.
Lou, Vic's love, plays no small role himself. He is the picture of compassion (caring more for the other than one's self, the highest kind of empathy) and his business, Carmody's Car Carmas, specializes in pulling vehicles driven by the mundane back onto the path, er, road, after driver errors send the conveyances into the ditch, or worse.
What does any of this have to do with karma? Well, first, karma is a Sanskrit word translated as action, which has three parts: cause & effect, but most importantly motivation. Of the three, motivation is the element that completes karma. In this story, each character's motivations complete their karmic ends. I won't get into those for fear of spoiling the book for any who got this far in my review.
This is also a book of the mind, obviously, not just mind trips through time & space, but it also alludes to a specifically Buddhist understanding of psychology. Buddhism (which translates "awakened mind") re-cognizes that we, and all phenomena, are manifestations of mental consciousness, which is frequently defined as the white noise, or static noise, from which all phenomena manifest.
Under the surface of events in NOS4A2, lurks the same white noise, especially when the three gifted characters use their "magical" powers.
Vic's & Charlie's powers to convey themselves over space and time bear a remarkable resemblance to pohwa, or transfer of consciousness. While the body does not travel, the meditator's consciousness does and they are able to enter other bodies upon their destination. Given the references in the text to those who travel metaphysical highways, along with many other references to Buddhism salted away in the text, I couldn't help by think of pohwa.
Charlie Manx, the metaphysical bad guy, may be a guy whose good intentions ultimately have gone off the rails a long time ago. (I agree with the review that suggests the book would benefit from filling in Charlie's back story as in the case of other main characters.) Charlie has created a place called Christmasland, in his eyes devoid of unhappiness, full of entertainment, in the pursuit of happiness in the guise of Christmas year round. But without unhappiness and suffering, what Charlie has really created is a place where the characters (it's difficult to call them people) lack empathy, the defining human characteristic. This lack of empathy leads them to delight in the suffering of others.
All of the characters instilled with empathy experience great unhappiness, even severe suffering, along their various paths, but reap their empathetic humanity as their karmic reward.
"Love and fun are not the same," warns the ghost of Vic's mother from the other side.
It's funny how so many regard this as a horror novel. I see delightful campiness. Charlie Manx is a hugely entertaining character and I'm going to guess is metaphorically very close to many of us. Charlie's lack of empathy is probably what defines the public's limited tolerance for witnessing the suffering of others. I suspect Charlie's version of Christmasland is a fantasy that has crossed many a mind. Charlie is happiest locked in his car, barreling down the highway at high speed. There once was a survey where 70% of respondents from the American public said they were most at peace while driving their cars 70 mph down the highway. No worries about those in need under those conditions.
I also see a lot of Count Olaf from the Baudelaire series in Charlie. Manx could easily be the smarter, more complex brother of the count.
I don't think readers are wrong to see shades of Lizabeth from the Millennium trilogy in Victoria.
Hill also weaves in allusions to many other sources, including the magic at Hogwarts, to great effect, and as other reviews mention the works of his father, and even his mother.
All in all, for this son of a minister's daughter who wouldn't allow him to read comics growing up, a most satisfying summer read.
Top reviews from other countries
As a child Vic had a bike that could take her anywhere she needed to go, often when she was looking for lost things. Charlie Manx and his 1938 Rolls Royce take children away to Christmasland, and it’s nowhere near as idyllic as it sounds. Then again, neither is Manx. When Vic goes looking for trouble, finds Manx and becomes the first child to ever escape from him, Manx returns years later to get his own back – by taking Vic’s son, Wayne, instead.
I love Vic. She’s a messy and messed up human being, but that doesn’t stop her from being a character we want to see thrive or a character we can sympathise with. One of my favourite things about this book was that Hill doesn’t pretend that, after escaping Manx, Vic is perfectly fine and gets on with her life. Almost dying at the hands of someone who’s been stealing children for years isn’t the kind of thing anyone could simply get over, and Vic lives with what almost happened to her, and what did happen to her, for the rest of her life. Surviving something like this means surviving it every day afterwards, and Vic struggles – especially when there’s no one she can tell about her bike that could help her find things without ending up in a straitjacket.
In fact there weren’t many characters I disliked. Obviously Manx and his assistant, Bing, aren’t the kind of people you’d like to meet in a dark alley, but they’re still characters that are understandable. I could have done without all the mentions of how Bing liked to sexually assault the mothers of the children Manx stole, but if I’m going to continue to read horror then sexual assault is something I’m probably going to have to get used to seeing.
I loved the other characters, though, such as Lou and Wayne. I loved how much Wayne loved his parents, and how much he was like an adult in the body of a 12 year old and had to be to deal with the parents he had. Not because they’re bad people or even bad parents, but because both Vic and Lou are still dealing with old hurts that they haven’t been able to grow away from. His relationship with Vic and Lou was lovely, as was Vic and Lou’s relationship. I loved them as a little unit of three, and Lou was such a sweetheart.
Much like everyone else he wasn’t perfect, but he was inherently good and exactly what Vic needed. I did start to get a little frustrated with how often his weight was brought up; I understood that Lou was obese, I didn’t need it brought up every single time he was on the page. I just feel like Lou deserved a little better than that. Having said that, considering his weight was something he hated about himself, I did love that it was often brought up when we were following Lou himself, and yet whenever Vic thought of Lou she never mentioned his weight at all. Instead she talked about how safe he made her feel, how she loved the way he smelled, and how much a genuinely nice guy he was. That was a clever narrative choice on Hill’s part, and it said a lot about how we perceive ourselves vs how other people perceive us.
It worked both ways, too. Vic thought of herself as a failure throughout the majority of her adult life, but Lou and Wayne never did.
Hill played around with perspective really well when he wrote Vic’s parents, too. When Vic is a child who’s close to her father and idealises him, her mother seems like a terrible and incredibly annoying parent. It’s only when Vic’s older that she’s able to appreciate her mother and acknowledge that, while she thought the world of her father, he wasn’t actually the best person and he certainly wasn’t a good husband.
Despite this book being on the chunkier side, with my edition almost 700 pages long, it’s very readable and a book I moved through quickly. That said, for as long as it was I was surprised we didn’t spend more time in Christmasland and there are a few scenes that probably could have been cut. I was never bored, though, and whenever I put it down I looked forward to picking it up again.
But I am surprised this didn’t frighten me! Bing was more annoying than intimidating, although knowing what he was doing with the women they kidnapped was disgusting and I wanted him dead, but I’m surprised by how much Manx didn’t frighten me, and I was expecting him to. Just the name ‘Charlie Manx’ sounds like it belongs to a serial killer, the kind that true crime podcasts would obsess over, but I was never scared of him. Would I want him turning up at my house? God no, but I think this is the kind of horror novel that I’m going to remember more for its protagonists than its antagonists, and to be honest I’m fine with that. I love Vic, and I can’t wait to try more of Hill’s work.
Essentially it's a story about inner worlds brought into a space where others can experience them. Vic (our hero) learns she can find lost things. She allows her mind to drift while riding her bicycle and finds her way onto a bridge that will lead her to whatever she is looking for. One day she looks for trouble and find it in the shape of Charlie Manx. Manx is a very bad man, who believes he's a very good man. He abducts children and takes them to a special place called Christmasland, which exists in his head but can become real for the children he takes there. He drives a car, an old Rolls Royce, with the number place NOS 4R2.
If you, like me, enjoy your horror with plenty of fantasy, this is a book I am sure you will love. It's one I am likely to return to again and again, as I do with American Gods and The Great and Secret Show.
On a separate note, it is clear from the writing style that Joe Hill has learned a great deal of his craft from his father (Stephen King for those who weren't aware), but doesn't yet have the literary polish of the "Old Man" (very few do). I will have to read some of his more recent works to see how he develops as a writer.
In summary then, this is a good story with a few artistic flaws that prevent it from being the horror classic that it could have been. I can't help thinking that this would have been a better (perhaps great or even classic) book if the idea had come to the author later in his career, once he had mastered his craft and developed as a writer.