NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (narrated by Kate Mulgrew)

Embarrassing as it is to admit, the first time I read about NOS4R2, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get the summary about gifted “finder” Vic McQueen, her magic bike and covered bridge, and I didn’t get her nemesis, child snatcher Charlie Manx, his magic car and eternal Christmasland. Even more than that, though, I didn’t get the title *hides in embarrassment*. Apparently, the US and UK titles differ: NOS4A2 vs. NOS4R2, and while it might seem to be a minor change of little consequence, it was only when I later came across a UK version that it finally clicked: Nosferatu.

By that time, I’d listened to some of Joe Hill’s other works Locke & Key and Heart Shaped Box, so was much more amenable to taking this story out for a spin, even if I still wasn’t entirely sure what it was actually about. There’s something about horror of the Joe Hill/Stephen King variety that I think makes it ideally suited to audiobook format. You don’t need the physical page in front of you to cross-reference complex ideas, or stay in command of the plot; instead, you can tune in, turn up and be swept along for the ride, without worrying about the destination. In this respect, Kate Mulgrew made an excellent narrator, enfolding me in the story and allowing it to unfold.

Ultimately, there was just too much going on in NOS4R2 for me to truly love it. Stephen King once said that his best works are born when he’s able to marry two core creepy concepts together, and I think here – ironically in a story about the power of imagination – the depths of Hill’s own were his undoing.

Don’t get me wrong, NOS4R2 isn’t a bad book. I love the idea of a little girl peddling across an imaginary bridge to find lost possessions. But by marrying it with child snatching, insanity, Christmasland, the FBI, broken familial relationships, an unstable rapist, plundered morgues and a shit tonne of explosives, at times I found it hard to keep pushing on through.

I’ll definitely read more by Hill in future, and I’m looking forward to starting his newest offering, The Fireman, but I doubt NOS4R2 is one I’ll care to revisit.

[Read from 20 May-18 June 2016]

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