Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

 

by Stacey Longo

NOS4A2

Joe Hill’s third novel, NOS4A2, is a witty, terrifying ride into the creepy world of Charlie Manx, who creates a Christmasland of horrors and carts off young children in his Rolls Royce Wraith to join in the fun. If your idea of fun is akin to hunting humans, that is.

Vic McQueen is our heroine. We meet her as a young girl, when she discovers that while riding her bike, she can escape from her unhappy home into other places and worlds. She is, in fact, the only child to escape Christmasland, a fact that does not sit well with Manx and his assistant, Bing.

Vic escapes Manx’s clutches with the assistance of Lou Carmody, an overweight, socially awkward comic book aficionado, and the two soon find themselves together and raising their son, Bruce Wayne. Nope. Not kidding. They named the kid after Batman. It is this kid that Manx and Bing target, and this kid that Vic and Lou must work together to save.

Names seem to be pretty important to Joe Hill, and also serve to showcase his fabulous sense of humor. Charlie Manx is reminiscent of another Charlie M, one with a big, murderous family from the late 60s. Bing is the name of both a search engine (fitting, since he searches out kids that, in his mind, are better off in Christmasland than with their horrible parents) and of a famous holiday crooner. I like to think of the NOS4A2 Bing like the latter: as Crosby’s son would spill in a nasty tell-all book, Bing was not the nice guy he appeared to be; nor is this one. Vic McQueen is a tough, sexy, rebellious motorcycle enthusiast, and her childhood parallels that of late actor Steve McQueen. He too had fond memories of a childhood bike, ran away from home, and had daddy issues.

The understated hero of this novel is Lou Carmody, who was by far my favorite character. His love for Vic and his son are unquestioning, and quite frankly, you’ll like Vic a little less because of the way she treats him. Though it is Vic who must return to Christmasland to face her demons, she wouldn’t get there, get it done, and get out without Lou’s unwavering support and assistance.

The problem I’ve had in the past with Joe Hill’s work is his endings. I wasn’t crazy about how Horns wrapped up, and I positively hated the ending of Heart-Shaped Box. (I have heard the same complaint from others about Hill’s father. Personally, I feel you do not have the right to complain about Stephen King until after you have written a bazillion bestsellers yourself. Until then, shut up.) And here’s where NOS4A2 differs: I loved, yes loved, this ending. Yet again Hill lets his delightful funny bone shine through, and he did it in a wonderful way. Here’s a hint: if you didn’t read the Acknowledgements and A Note on the Type following the last chapter of this book, then you did not read NOS4A2 all the way through.

Overall, I found this to be well done, a little wordy at times, but worth the ride.

A Conversation with Author Adam Cesare

By Jason Harris

 

b55f3206ed747f885cd18d60591387401. You have written a novel, novella, and a short story collection. What are you working on now?

Next up will be another full-length novel. That one will be from Samhain (they put out Video Night, as well) and it’s my take on the satanic cult subgenre. All the longer pieces I’ve written have all been set in specific periods (the 1980s, 1960s, etc.) I didn’t want to become known as the “throwback” horror guy, so The Summer Job is set in our time. The characters have iPhones. I’m all done with that one and right now I’m working on a novella for a to-be-named publisher. I’m super excited about both of these.

2. On Amazon, it has you credited with Bound by Jade (the Fourth Sam Truman Mystery). Is this true and were you involved with any of the other mysteries in the series? I only ask since you don’t have this book listed on your website.

There are a couple of posts about it on the site, but I think they’ve been pushed off the front page over the last few months. It should be on the website; I’m just the world’s worst webmaster, so it’s not up there. I’ll fix that.

The series was created by writer/publisher Ed Kurtz. Sam’s a disgraced P.I. who just happens to get the city’s strangest cases (the books are supernatural noirs). I didn’t write the first three, but they all share the same character. The series is something special and I’m very proud of my entry. They’re dirt cheap, so everyone should give the Sam Truman books a try.

My installment is a novella called Bound by Jade. It can stand on its own, but reading the whole series is the best way to go.Bound by Jade

3. You have written about movies in Tribesmen and Video Night. Would you say, you have been influenced by movies? What movies have influenced you?

Yeah. Even from a young age, movies were my everything. Not to get lame with the “write what you know” adage, but I use the world of film as a jumping off point in those books. Video Night is based on the phenomenon of watching movies, especially the social aspect of that, while Tribesmen is more about making movies and what goes in (and shouldn’t go in) to getting what you need on camera.

The Summer Job doesn’t explicitly connect to the world of film, but it is my attempt to write in the genre of folk horror. To the best of my understanding, folk horror is predominately a film term and it describes the subgenre that films like The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw and Kill List belong in. Those are all British films, and I am nowhere near British enough to try and write about the location, so mine’s a New England folk horror story. 91w2nxklemL__SL1500_

4. You were a film studies major in college. What made you decide on that degree?

I studied both English and Film. When you’re a film studies major (as opposed to a film production major) the two fields of study are actually very similar. They’re both a lot of reading, writing, and analytical thinking. That kind of stuff interests me and I think that being a critical consumer of media (no matter if it’s Re-animator or The Canterbury Tales) makes you a better writer.

5. What did you envision doing with your life with a Film Studies degree?

I went to grad school for a year and picked up a Masters in Education. So I’m qualified to teach, which is also something I find worthwhile/enriching.

6. Who are some of your favorite writers?

Oh boy. This is one of those questions I could spend all night on. For horror, let’s go with Aaron Dries, Sarah Langan, Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones, Shane McKenzie, and Jeff Strand.

7. Who are you reading at the moment?

I’ve got Joe Hill’s latest, NOS4A2 almost finished. I’m right now in the process of choosing what goes next. I try to put my genre consumption on rotation, so since I’m just finishing reading something that’s horror I’ve got three different genres all vying for the title: N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon (fantasy, I think), James S.A. Corey’s Abaddon’s Gate (science fiction) and Duane Swiercynski’s third Charlie Hardie book, Point & Shoot (crime).

TribesmenCover8. You have a blurb from Jeff Strand for Tribesmen. How did you feel when you received that blurb? Did you seek him out for one?

Jeff and I had only met once very briefly before I asked him to take a look at the book, so I was really surprised how nice he was about the whole thing. His blurb is amazing and now that I’ve seen him a couple more times at conventions, he and his wife (author Lynne Hansen) are two of my favorite people.

9. Would you like to see Tribesmen or Video Night made into a movie?

Yes, please.

10. If they were made into a movie, who would you like to see direct it and why?

Some aspects of the books would probably have to change either way, but I like to think that they’re both pretty adaptation-friendly.

Lexi Alexander would be a good choice for Video Night, in my opinion. She knows how to work with actors and gore in equal measure as evidenced by the criminally underrated Punisher: War Zone.

The dynamic directing-duo of John Skipp and Andrew Kasch would be my choice for Tribesmen. They’ve done some incredible short work that’s both hilarious and disgusting. They would get the tone EXACTLY.

I mean. There are no films in the works or anything, so why don’t we throw P.T. Anderson and Kathryn Bigelow and [Martin] Scorsese in the running?

11. What made you stay in Boston after college?

I love it. It’s been my home for seven years. It’s a movie-loving town, for one thing. The Coolidge and the Brattle are two of the best theaters in the country and they’re both walking distance from me.

12. Are there any plans to put Bone Meal Broth out in paperback? What inspired that collection of work?

I had the rights back to a bunch of stories that had been previously published, so I picked out the best of them and put out a short (20,000 word) collection. I’m quite proud of it, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be in paperback. It’s the only time I’ve self-published something and I really enjoyed the experience. Maybe in a few years I’ll bump up the word count by adding some stories to the roster and then find a publisher that would tangle with it.

13. What has your nonfiction work been about?

It’s all film essays. I’ve written guest posts for a few blogs and my articles have seen print in Paracinema Magazine. They’re amazing, by the way, if you haven’t read that magazine I highly recommend it.

14. Your work has been featured in Shroud and Fangoria. How did it feel being in Fangoria, a horror magazine that I think every person who is or has been into reading/watching horror has read?

That was just a quick book review I wrote freelance for them, but it got my name on the contributor page and I thought I would faint. For the whole month I was going to newsstands, thumbing to my page and giggling like a madman.

15. You had a blog, Brain Tremors. I love that name by the way. Why choose that name? Did the name come to you right away? Is there history behind the name?

Yeah, Brain Tremors. That was my old page, but I still use the banner over at www.adamcesare.com. I kind of knew what I wanted the insignia to look like, and what’s creepier than an involuntary shaking of the brain?

16. What would be your advice for wannabe writers?

Ha. I’m too low-level to be handing out advice. My advice would be to take writing advice from Joe Lansdale, as he hands it out occasionally on his Twitter/Facebook feed.

One thing that does bug me is the idea of an “aspiring” writer. There are a lot of people on twitter that label themselves that way. Fake it till you make it, guys and gals. There’s no room on the internet for low self-esteem, it’s too full of cat pictures and lackluster writing advice.

A Relaxing Saturday Afternoon with Joe Hill

By Timothy P. Flynn

Tim BDay 2013 002Last Saturday, on May 25, my daughter and I made the trip up to the Barnes and Noble in Nashua, New Hampshire for the special event where horror/speculative fiction writer Joe Hill was appearing. He is presently doing appearances in various areas to promote his newest novel, NOS4A2. He was to do a brief reading from his new book, a Q and A session with the audience, and then start the signing of his books.

My nickname should really start to become “Tardy Tim” because I am late for everything recently. We got to the event around 2:30 (half an hour late) and missed the reading part of the event. There was a huge crowd all encompassing the magazine section of the store. My daughter and I snuck in the back, right beside fellow Necon camper Gardner Goldsmith (SHOUTOUT).

Joe has a terrific personality answering the questions before him making the audience cackle with laughs at all the right moments. When the subject of his famous father came up, Joe retorted with the statement, “You all may have heard my Dad writes here and there. He may have a future in this business, but who knows.” Joe made a point to refresh the audience that ALL of his family members are fantastic writers. This included his mom, Tabitha, his brother, Owen with a new novel out at present, and Owen’s wife is also a novelist. The King household at get-togethers and around the dinner table has always been the place for literary conversation.

Gardner’s question was a very good one. He asked Mr. Hill about his productive output, as in a daily word count and also any certain moments in his career that were pivotal in his direction. Joe answered with a daily 1200 words before anything: emails, phone calls, etc. The pivotal moment was his choice to pursue the horror/speculative fiction genre after some literary attempts – simply because he loved the genre was the answer, and the choice of the pseudonym, which was to not rely on name alone for his writing merits. Joe Hill made it as a successful writer on his own terms before it leaked who his identity was. The speed round Q and A was hilarious with short “yes” or “no” answers to multiple questions.

Tim BDay 2013 005The signing line was quite long, but well worth the wait. Joe was great by answering questions, signing multiple books, and even posing for a few pictures. One could easily say it was a successful event and a great time was had by everyone who attended. This was the second time I met Joe Hill, but it was my 10-year-old daughter’s first time. She braved through some of the boring parts for a child with her dad trying to best to keep a smile on her face. Her name is now even personalized in two of Mr. Hill’s books and resides now in our home on my bookcase.

About the author:

Flynn is an author and member of the New England Horror Writers. You can find out more about him on his website by clicking here.