This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (June 2021)
|Genre||Horror; Dark Fantasy|
|Publisher||William Morrow and Company|
Published in English
|April 30, 2013|
NOS4A2 (pronounced Nosferatu) is the third novel by American author Joe Hill, son of authors Stephen and Tabitha King. 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 as an alternate ending. A comic book tie-in series from IDW Publishing entitled Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland was announced. The series takes place in Christmasland and features characters from the novel.
The book opens in a prison hospital in 2008. Charles Talent Manx III, a convicted child abductor, briefly wakes from a coma to threaten a nurse. Her coworkers dismiss her claim because Manx has exhibited only limited brain function for years.
The book flashes back to 1986. Eight-year-old Victoria “Vic” McQueen discovers that she can find lost things by riding her bicycle through a particular covered bridge near her home in Massachusetts. Although this "Shorter Way" Bridge always takes her to the location of whatever she is seeking, each trip exacts an increasing 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 Leigh, a librarian who can use Scrabble tiles to gain information about future events. Similar to using the Shorter Way, 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 does not know his name. Vic travels home, but loses her bike and develops a terrible fever. Manx enlists chemical plant worker Bing Partridge to steal a supply of gingerbread-scented sevoflurane anesthetic from his workplace. Manx has been taking the children he abducts to a place called "Christmasland" where they can be happy forever, and Bing assists him by using the sevoflurane (which he calls "gingerbread smoke") to incapacitate the children's parents before raping and killing them.
In 1996, 18-year-old Vic uses the Shorter Way to flee from home after a fight with her mother. She asks her estranged father if she can stay with him, but he rebuffs her. Vic follows the Shorter Way to Manx's house in Colorado, thinking that her abduction will hurt her mother. Upon arrival, 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. She hides in Manx's house and barely escapes after setting it on fire. She runs into overweight motorcyclist 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 has had a relationship with Lou and given 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 harassed by phone calls from Christmasland's vampire children, who chastise her for Manx's arrest. Vic's torment destroys her relationship with Lou and leads her to burn down their home, but they part amicably and she eventually recovers after a stay in a psychiatric hospital.
By 2012, Vic is again living in Massachusetts, in a house inherited from her now-deceased mother. Maggie appears on her doorstep one day with news that 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 it for a test drive, discovering that it can enter the Shorter Way, 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 shows Wayne traveling toward Christmasland on a severely distorted map of the United States, Hutter does not believe Vic's story.
Vic eludes the police and uses the Shorter Way in an attempt 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 estranged father's house that the police do not understand. Vic takes the Shorter Way to visit Maggie in search of answers that Maggie can provide using her Scrabble tiles. The librarian explains that Manx depends on his car to reach Christmasland and steal his victims' souls, and that the only way to stop him is to destroy the car. While Vic sleeps, Maggie finds a message in the tiles - "When the angels fall, the children go home" - and leaves a copy for her. Spotting Wayne in the library, Maggie chases him outside and is killed by Manx. Narrowly avoiding capture by local police, Vic takes the Shorter Way to reach her father and Lou, and receives a load of 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 an officer to protect her. Vic takes Lou to the outskirts of Christmasland via the Shorter Way, then leaves him behind and follows Manx into the park, demanding that he return Wayne. Manx refuses and orders the children he has kidnapped to attack her. She is repeatedly wounded, but succeeds in destroying Christmasland with her explosives and escapes with Wayne via the Shorter Way to reach Lou. When Manx gives chase, the bridge collapses under the weight of his car and the swarm of bats that Vic sends against him; he is transported to 1986, falling into the river where Vic first discovered the Shorter Way, and the impact destroys the car and kills him. Vic soon dies from her injuries and the mental strain of the escape.
By the following October, Lou has had an angioplasty and gastric bypass surgery, lost a great deal of weight, and begun a relationship with Hutter. Wayne begins to receive telephone calls from the children Manx kidnapped and finds himself taking pleasure in misfortune and calamity, making him fear that he might be able to rebuild Christmasland and continue Manx's work on his own. Lou and Hutter take him to the burned-out ruin of Manx's house and begin smashing the Christmas ornaments hung in the trees. As they do so, many of Manx's victims emerge into the real world, still of childhood age and with their humanity fully restored as predicted by Maggie's message. Wayne feels his own psyche heal after the moon ornament he had chosen for himself is broken.
An extra epilogue included in the first edition reveals that several of the children cross over into the real world on their own and collect their ornaments before they can be destroyed. These children have remained at large, intent on causing more torment and getting revenge against the ones who have recovered.
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", an expression used in The Dark Tower books to refer to an individual's death. In a 2013 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".
In King's novel Doctor Sleep, published later in 2013, Dick Halloran reveals that during his childhood, an abusive paternal grandfather threatened that Charlie Manx could be called to take children away, although Halloran states in his recounting that he believes that Manx was a fiction constructed by his grandfather. Doctor Sleep also makes a brief reference to Christmasland, implying that the True Knot have visited.
Bing Partridge (also known as the Gasmask 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. A minor character also has the last name de Zoet, another reference to the works of David Mitchell.
In the short story Dark Carousel, one of the carousel creatures on the titular ride "was a gift from Manx, who runs Christmasland in Colorado".
Adaptation and continuation
On December 8, 2015, it was announced that the novel was in development to become a TV series on AMC. On April 10, 2018, AMC officially ordered a 10-episode television series. Jami O'Brien will be showrunner and executive producer. All ten episodes for the series were made available on June 2, 2019, released for AMC Premiere, AMC's -on-demand-service. A second series serving as a continuation of both the first series and novel, adapting the events of an unpublished outline for a NOS4A2 sequel and set eight years later, aired from June 21 to August 23, 2020.
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- Boucher, Geoff (March 30, 2019). "'NOS4A2': AMC Releases Trailer And Premiere Date For Supernatural Horror Drama". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
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