I love audio books. In the author’s notes on the audio version of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, he talks about how the first stories we learn are read to us. I listen to audio books when I’m in the car, shopping, and playing Candy Crush. In typical book blogger fashion, I already have a tbr shelf just for audio books. Reviewing them is a bit more difficult, because I don’t take notes and I don’t always know how to spell the characters names. So these reviews will be a little less structured.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.
Joe Hill just keeps getting better! His imagination and skills are dazzling, and he obviously has his father’s gift for creating wonderful child characters (maybe his mom has this skill too, but I’ve yet to read a Tabitha King novel), and I instantly was able to connect with The Brat, even if we’re nothing alike.
I liked all of the characters, even the bad ones. Manx was a worthy opponent to Vic, and I like that while he’s evil and awful and capable of great violence, he’s also not portrayed as super smart. Usually villains get to be genius masterminds, but evil comes in stupid packages too. Actually, I couldn’t help but picture Manx as a Montgomery Burns type, gleefully steepling his fingers together when introducing children to his Christmasland. Bing was a great side kick, and at first I felt a bit sorry for him.
Vic’s parents are not perfect, but they’re real. Everyone in the book has very real flaws, and there is a theme of forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness, that flows through this story. Vic, now a grown up Brat, has to overcome so much in order to put herself back together. The most touching moments of this book, and there were quite a few despite all of the action and violence, dealt with Vic coming to terms with her relationships with the people in her life.
Kate Mulgrew, who many of you might remember from a Star Trek series, narrates. Her voice is amazing, and she can convey such emotion. She really is acting, and not just speaking. At first I was nervous that she wouldn’t be a good fit, after all, the main character is a young girl who goes from ten to thirty something. But there is a toughness, an old spirit feel to Vic McQueen, aka The Brat, and Mulgrew captures it perfectly.
Mulgrew is gifted enough to pull off multiple characters at once. Bing and Manx sounded exactly as I would have imagined (there’s something a bit Montgomery Burns about Manx). She handles male voices quite well, which is a challenge for any audio narrator- I’ve listened to a few that made anyone of the other sex sound downright creepy- but Mulgrew makes Lou sweet and Wayne sound like the brave young boy he is.
A good narrator, along with a good story, has you finding time and excuses to listen to a book. Hill’s novel had me from the beginning, but it was Kate Mulgrew who kept my butt glued to the seat if you will. During a drive though a particularly heavy rainstorm, I had to turn the audio book off. I was that creeped out. I would definitely listen to more books that Mulgrew narrates!