I’ve suffered from a bout of mental incontinence lately that has affected not only my blogging, but also my writing. I have been writing every day, but the words have come out in forced drips. Not pretty, but I pushed through and now everything seems to be fine.
During that period I became engrossed in the latest novel by Joe Hill, NOS4A2. The novel is a wild, trippy ride through the inscapes of the mind meshed with the story of one woman’s struggle to relate to her loved ones and the world around her.
Joe Hill writes a good story. I loved the idea of inscapes, and especially the call out to Mid-World from the Dark Tower Series. The overarching story of how Vic McQueen deals with her gift (or curse) and her conflict with the antagonist, Charlie Manx, drive the story.
My main criticism is that at times I felt that the narrative could have been tighter, and in fact a review I read on Amazon nailed how I feel:
‘NOS4A2 is epic in length, but not in scope.’
Vic McQueen is the best part of the story. She has a gift or a curse, depending on your point of view, and her life unfolds in response to this gift (or curse). Joe Hill nails the reality of mental illness with his portrayal of the evolution of Vic’s character. I felt a great deal of sympathy for her and pulled for her throughout the novel. Vic is the classic tragic heroine.
Charlie Manx is a real-life villain. What he does is horrible, but when seen from his point of view you can understand why he does what he does. You understand why he thinks what he does is right. In that way Charlie is not a caricature, but I never sympathized. There are points in Charlie’s history where Joe Hill could have tweaked a few events and made Charlie a villain for whom you feel sympathy, thus making Charlie deeper, but that never materialized.
Outside of Vic, the real delight is the idea of inscapes–how everyone has their own perception of reality and that each of our perceptions of reality are linked. These perceptions of reality can become separate worlds whose extent are limited only by our imagination. It’s a powerful set of ideas that Joe has put out there.
Unlike Horns, Joe Hill’s previous novel, I was able to set aside NOS4A2 when I needed to sleep–except for the climax. The last hundred or so pages flew by.
In the end what makes NOS4A2 a good novel is the sum of the positives. Like I said, the prose could be tighter, but the lead character, Vic McQueen, and the story itself pull this novel together and make it a good read.
If you like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere or The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King, I think you might like NOS4A2.
I will say that after reading NOS4A2 I now want a Rolls Royce Wraith.