|Publisher||William Morrow and Company|
Published in English
|April 30, 2013|
NOS4A2 (pronounced Nosferatu) is the third novel by American author Joe Hill. The book was published on April 30, 2013 through William Morrow and Company and focuses on a woman trying to save her son from a vicious, supernatural killer who has set his sights on him. The novel is called NOS4R2 in the United Kingdom.
A limited edition version of the book was released through Subterranean Press, featuring the novella Wraith that was cut from the manuscript as well an alternate ending. A comic book tie-in miniseries from IDW Publishing entitled Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland was announced. The miniseries takes place in Christmasland and features characters from the novel.
The book opens in a hospital in 2008. Charles Manx, a convicted child abductor, briefly wakes from a coma to threaten a nurse. Her coworkers don't believe her claim, because he exhibits only limited brain function.
The book flashes back to 1986. Young Vic McQueen discovers that she can find lost things by riding her bicycle through the Shorter Way Bridge. The Bridge always takes her to the location of whatever she is seeking. Traveling this way takes a mental and physical toll on her. She has to lie about how she finds things, because the truth would not be believed. On one such trip, she travels to an Iowa library where she meets Maggie, a librarian that can use Scrabble tiles to determine the location of missing items or information. Similar to using the Bridge, this divination process takes a toll on Maggie, causing a severe stutter. She warns Vic against Manx, whom she calls "the Wraith" after the model of car he drives because she is unable to divine his real name. Vic travels home, but loses her bike and develops a terrible fever. Manx enlists chemical plant worker Bing to acquire a gingerbread-flavored sevoflurane that the factory produces. Bing believes that Manx is taking the children to a place called "Christmasland" where they can be happy forever, and uses the sevoflurane to incapacitate the parents of the children Manx targets.
In 1996 a teenage Vic uses the Shorter Way after she has a fight with her mother. She asks her estranged father if she can stay with him, but he rebuffs her. Vic uses the Bridge to travel to Manx's house, thinking that her abduction will hurt her mother. Once there she attempts to rescue a child locked in the back of the Wraith, only to find that he is apparently in league with Manx and has rows of sharp brown teeth and cold mist coming from his nose. Vic barely escapes from Manx after his house catches on fire. She runs into overweight motorcycle rider Lou Carmody, who takes her to a gas station to call the police. Manx arrives at the same station to purchase gas, and is captured by the police after he sets fire to a serviceman.
The story returns to 2008. An adult Vic had a relationship with Lou and gave birth to a son, Bruce Wayne Carmody. Unhappy and scarred by the past, she restores motorcycles and develops a successful series of children's books. She is tormented by phone calls from Christmasland's vampire children who chastise her for Manx's arrest. Vic's torment destroys her relationship with Lou, but they part amicably and she eventually recovers.
Maggie appears on Vic's doorstep in 2012 and confronts her with the uncomfortable fact that Manx died in prison, resurrected himself, and then escaped. Vic denies this, accuses Maggie of insanity, and sends her away. Meanwhile, Manx reunites with Bing. They kill Vic's neighbors and move into their house, watching from a distance as Vic and Wayne repair an old motorcycle. When Vic takes the motorcycle for a test drive, Manx and Bing kidnap Wayne and severely injure Vic. Wayne is able to call Lou to alert him of the kidnapping. Vic calls the police to report the abduction, but they refuse to believe her since Manx is officially dead and they believe his body was simply stolen. FBI psychologist Tabitha Hutter is assigned to psychoanalyze Vic after suspicion falls on her of being involved in her son's disappearance. Despite a cell phone trace that reveals Wayne's location as "Christmasland" on a severely distorted map of the United States, Hutter doesn't believe Vic's story.
Vic escapes protective custody and uses the Shorter Way to find Wayne. She arrives at Bing's house and he attacks her, but she kills him in self-defense by igniting his sevoflurane. Vic calls Lou (who is still with the police) and tells them about Bing's house, also giving Lou a hint to meet her at her father's house that the police do not understand. Then Vic takes the Shorter Way to Maggie's library. The two women search for answers using Maggie's Scrabble tiles. Vic discovers that the way to destroy Manx is to destroy his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Maggie is killed when Manx arrives at the library while Vic is sleeping. Narrowly avoiding capture by local police, Vic takes the Shorter Way Bridge to her estranged father's house, where Lou and her father give her explosives that her father uses in his demolition work.
Hutter and the police arrive to detain Vic. While Hutter seems to be willing to listen to Vic's version of events after she reveals information about Maggie's death that had happened only a short time earlier and many states away, the police under Hutter's command are more aggressive and shoot Vic's father dead when he attacks one to protect Vic. Vic and Lou escape, arriving at Manx's home. Vic leaves Lou behind and travels via the Shorter Way to Christmasland. She blows up the town, but one of Manx's children mortally wounds her. Manx and one of his two vampire daughters escape in the Wraith through the Shorter Way, but they are killed when the Bridge implodes.
Vic dies shortly after she and Wayne return to reality. Later that year, Lou has lost a lot of weight and has begun a relationship with Hutter. Wayne has nightmares about Christmasland in which he becomes one of Manx's children and participates in gruesome games. He feels that he is losing his humanity for real and is being transformed into one of Manx's creatures. Lou takes Tabitha and Wayne to the ruins of Manx's house. He smashes Christmas ornaments that are hanging around the property. As each ornament is destroyed, a child that Manx had kidnapped appears, restored to human form. Lou finds the ornament that represents Wayne and destroys it, apparently returning him to normal.
In an alternate ending, included in a special edition but left out of the main edition, some of the ornaments escape destruction and Manx's surviving daughter and some other vampire children arrive into the real world.
Critical reception has been mostly positive, with the Library Journal praising NOS4A2 as "fascinating and utterly engaging". USA Today also gave a positive review and commented that the book "[reimagined] the vampire epic". The AVClub, Library Journal and Time magazine also named NOS4A2 as one of the ten best books of 2013.
The novel includes several references to Joe Hill's other works. Charles Manx, discussing the concept of "inscapes" and secret places, refers to the Treehouse of the Mind (from Horns) and Craddock McDermott (from Heart-Shaped Box). Later in the novel, the FBI tries to use a cell phone map to track Wayne's cell phone; the map includes the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, from Locke & Key. According to Hill, the novel also includes references to two novels, Orphanhenge and The Crooked Alley, that he may publish in the future.
Hill also included several references to the works of his father, Stephen King. Manx refers to the gates to Mid-World and Shawshank Prison, and says that the True Knot follow nearly the same profession as he does. The phone map also shows Derry, Maine, and a place called "Pennywise's Circus". Hill describes Vic's return from Christmasland as returning "to the clearing at the end of the path", a reference to the Dark Tower books. In an interview, Hill says that these references were not meant to tie his works to King's shared world. He claims he was "just fooling around".
Supporting character The Gas Mask Man says, "My life for you," in a desperate show of devotion to Manx, a clear reference to the same line spoken by the Trashcan Man to Randall Flagg of King's The Stand. It is also the same phrase that Andrew Quick, the Tick Tock Man, says to Flagg in book 3 of The Dark Tower series.
A minor character is listening to Frobisher's Cloud Atlas Sextet on the radio just before being killed. This would seem to connect the reality of NOS4A2 with that of David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas, in which the character Robert Frobisher composes the aforementioned work.
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