N0S4A2 is a standalone horror story written by Joe Hill, son of Stephen King. This was my first time reading anything he’d written. Maybe it’s because I read a lot more fantasy than I do horror, but this book felt as much like a fantasy book to me as it did a horror book. I guess that line is a little blurry, at least in my mind. There were definitely elements of horror to it, but I never felt scared, not even a little bit. I expect it might bother others, though, especially mothers. Maybe all those horror books I read in junior high left me a little numb…
There are several characters in this book, but the one I thought of as the “main” character was a girl named Vic. She starts off as an 8-year-old, but grows into an adult over the course of the story. Vic has a special skill. She can find lost things by riding her bike over a non-existent bridge. Clearly there’s a lot more to the explanation than that, but I don’t want to spoil the fun. Meanwhile, kids are being kidnapped and taken to a place called Christmasland, where they can have all sorts of fun forever and ever... as long as they don't mind becoming deranged. I didn’t know when I started this book that I was picking such an appropriate time of the year for it! If horror books tend to bother you, though, you might not want to read this book until you can safely go through your days without hearing any Christmas music anywhere.
I liked this book, for the most part, but I also have complaints. I liked the general story, and I liked the characters. Sometimes I was annoyed by their decisions, but I didn’t feel like they were doing stupid things just because the author needed them to do stupid things so he could move the plot forward. At times I couldn’t put the book down, but there were also times when it felt like a slog. There were a few cases of what I call Omniscient Gut Syndrome, which is one of my pet peeves. This is that dastardly disease that causes a character’s gut to be all-knowing. The gut tells the character, and thus the reader, that something is true even though there hasn’t been any tangible evidence. The character “just knows” it’s true, or “feels that it’s true”, or “her thought feels right to her”.
I also thought there were a lot of small details that didn’t quite fit correctly, and some plot threads that were really far-fetched even within the confines of the fictional story. These things dragged me out of the story and niggled at me throughout the day when I wasn’t reading. I could come up with my own explanations for many (but not all) of them, but I felt like I was doing some of the author’s work for him.
I have a couple examples in the spoiler tags.
I did like the ending. I had thought it was going in one direction, one that’s entirely too typical for horror stories in my experience, so I was happy when it ended up differently than I’d expected. I’m giving this 3.5 stars on BookLikes and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads.