Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Highway to...

Ok yes I may be going against type here talking about someone that is getting a lot of press right now but with how much I loved this novel I have to...

Joe Hill is just that good; this book sets its hooks into me with the opening scene and wormed it way into my heart in ways I least expected. Like Heart Shaped Box, Locke and Key and his short fiction, this story is wildly and convincingly conceived; the knife knife of Joe's imagination cuts through disbelief as if it were tissue.

Nos4a2 is a novel that I sped through considering its near 700 pages. It will make you read late into the night and give you chills when the lights are off. Joe Hill does not go for cheap gore horror or simple shocks; he deftly foreshadows the events and revelations so that as the reader you never feel that he's cheating and sometimes you get the reveal just before he shows you. I loved his first novel Hear Shaped Box, and his graphic novel series Locke and Key that pays right into my enjoyment of HPL influenced horror but this one really hit in all the right spots and occasionally in some painful places. In addition to the roller coaster ride and tense chase scenes he throws in seveal good emotional gut punches, to borrow a comment from the SFSqueecast a couple of episodes back. NOS4A2 is more then just a well told weird suspense tale that breaks the walls of reality a bit there is so much real about the feelings and moments Joe conjures up that it would be just as affective without all the weird. He brought me to tears unexpectedly with the way he wrote one scene that even though I knew what was coming the hurt was still very bright.

As a short story writer Joe is deft at creating character in a few lines painting a person fully in a simple brushstroke. The bigger story may be the conflict between Charlie the spooky sociopath with the NOS4A2 license plate and Victoria (Vic or the Brat) spry and foul mouthed biker chick but Joe never forgets to give hints of the stories of the other players and give them just as much weight in their moment. Just after finishing the book I wanted to start it again just to re-encounter the fictional friends I almost instantly missed.

Vic we meet as a headstrong pre teen who's home life is less then ideal given unstable parents and see her grow up into a loveable but very flawed and broken person, creative, witty, vulgar and headstrong but very broken. Her story collides after a particularly bad family blowup with that of the sociopathic child"saving" Manx. Many chance events lead to this moment that changes her life and his really and leading to the dramatic sad hard and spooky years that follow between their first encounter the the climactic one. The other characters drawn into the gravity of this conflict include family friends and children and no one leaves unchanged even those who never really encounter them in the flesh.

NOS4A2 as I said was a wildly creative novel, a world that some can bend or influence in powerful subtle and twisted ways but it was wild in other senses. In terms of pacing Joe sculpted some of the tensest series of scenes into a form that spread my pulse and left me just as jittery or shaken as his characters; he effectively created the visceral experience of the event though I did not move at all. He did more then create a maniac thrill ride, there are tender and tense family scenes that though not fast paced drew me in just as much wanting to see if the foreshadowing was as bad or worse then I feared.

Other reviewers have written about the plot and and love to discuss it and reveal things or hint at this but since this novel for me was a visceral experience I've focused on that. Joe's writing, his ability to convey the contents of his head, clearly enough to make my heart race, fear for incoming injuries and cry and laugh openly makes this a pretty great novel. Also, though out it has illustrations, imbedded magazine adds, bits do dental that could have been left only as words and a brilliant map that hints.... hints at more things related to the novel. Perhaps he's hinting that well be seeing more of this crazy world, hey one can only hope.

So now some links...

Joe Hill can be found here and post lots on twitter and tumblr

Trailers and videos related to the novel can be found there too here and here

There is also a cool illustrations of a couple of the characters from the book on Joe's site along with a list of his tour dates (the one at Powells that I sadly miss due to some horror called work) and some promos for more Locke and Key....

Here is a link to the mentioned SF Squeecast its a great group of writers sharing the SFnal things they dig...

As always I invite comments if you found my review helpful or fun or well whatever you think of it...

 

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