I read Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box shortly after it came out in 2007. It was a good read although somewhat unsatisfying for reasons I can’t articulate now. Recently I saw the book titled NOS4A2 and mentally sounded it out, laughed, grabbed it off the shelf and only then recognized the author’s name from the previous book.
It’s good. The main character, Victoria McQueen, is tragic, powerful, funny, flawed through no fault of her own. The book doesn’t delve into why she is the way she is. The focus is on the action that comes from her reactions to her special abilities.
The plot rotates around people with special abilities, various powers to make dreams reality, to find objects, people, and places, to travel instantly, to suck the life from others and live forever. The characters that are good suffer physically from their powers. The character that is bad doesn’t seem to suffer much from using his power.
With it’s shifting between dreamlike interior landscapes to the real world, it reminds me of Stephan King’s collaborations with Peter Straub (The Talisman, Black House). Even though the second half of the book is an extended chase scene, it’s sustained well. There are a few portions of violence doled out to characters that I had to skim over, wincing, but it was a quick read for an almost 700-page book. The illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez are clean and perfect and add a lot of flavor. The endpaper illustrations are particularly nice. I also see there is a graphic novel treatment of the book. There are many violent and shiver-inducing scenes and characters that will lend themselves well to the graphical format.
It isn’t until reading the afterword that I twig to the fact that Joe Hill is Stephan King’s son in the real world. This is also the first book I’ve ever read in which a major plot point is embedded in the “note on the type” at the very end.
“In between the beginning and the ending of the work, I went for a motorcycle ride with my dad. […] It was a happy ride, following him along his back roads with the sun on my shoulders. I guess I have been cruising his back roads my whole life. I don’t regret it.”