When I first saw the cover of NOS4A2, Joe Hill’s newest book, I knew I would enjoy it, months before it was due to come out, even before I knew anything about the plot. There’s simply a white license plate with the letters NOS4A2 stamped into it, with a blood red coat of rust running down vertically, a crimson shadow. NOS4A2, or Nosferatu, is the German word for vampire, and while the title is reflective of the kind of fantastic elements within the pages, the central story being told could be a nonfiction horror story, and is for many unfortunate families. In the first act, a girl is almost killed by a serial child murderer, but instead she lives and sends the twisted individual to prison. The book is a thick near-700 pages, which it should be noted, does not waste a page, and if the book ended after the first act I would have felt like I got my money’s worth. Unfortunately for the book’s protagonist, all things are cyclical, and the murderer comes back for revenge in the second half, to take her life and that of her own child.
I’ve read one of Hill’s previous novels, Horns, and have the other, Heart-Shaped Box, in my Kindle backlog, but NOS4A2 has to be by far his most ambitious piece of work, if not also the best. The scope of NOS4A2 rivals those of Hill’s father, Stephen King, and the central theme of a grown-up forced to face an evil they first encountered in their childhood is something seen in his father’s works more than once, most notably It. And while NOS4A2 proclaims that Joe Hill is his father’s son, it’s also distinctly a Hill novel, rather than a King novel.
A large part of what makes NOS4A2 so enjoyable while discussing such a morbid subject is the cast of characters. Almost every person that gets any amount of face time is utterly fascinating. The main character is a punk artist who can use her bicycle to summon a covered bridge that can cross any amount of distance instantaneously. There’s a morbidly obese mechanic who cosplays at conventions as a fat stormtrooper. A child named Bruce Wayne. A male nurse who has a tattoo of Firefly‘s Serenity and identifies as a Browncoat. A Scrabble-champion librarian who can use her Scrabble tiles as a kind of Ouija board to suss out answers to unsolved mysteries. A forty-year old henchman with a mind of a child and a penchant for World War II-era gasmasks. And the titular nosferatu, a man over a hundred years old who stays alive by feeding off children he abducts in his 1938 Rolls Royce.
9/10 – I bought NOS4A2 at midnight Tuesday when Amazon unlocked the Kindle version, and couldn’t stop reading until I finished all 686 pages on Thursday night. I can’t think of almost anything negative to say about the book, except for a slight lull in the middle pages while Hill gets the necessary exposition out of the way to transition from Act 1 to Act 2.