Saturday, November 9, 2013

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

As this is the only time in my entire life I'm going to be able say this, I'm going to say it, despite my general disdain of hipster attitude.

I was reading Joe Hill before everyone else.

Well, okay, hardly "everyone" else, but it seems this current novel has catapulted him back into popular consciousness, and it's certainly deserved. But having read his earlier books and short-story collections, and having waited patiently for another book while he's worked on the Locke & Key comics (which, despite the Lovecraftian overtones and numerous accolades, I just couldn't quite get into the last time I tried to read them), I feel I have some lassitude to say that NOS4A2's being as good as it is does not surprise me.

Only it did, because it was just that good. This was a book that was easily up there with the best of his more famous father's books, and while there are probably comparisons to be made, Joe Hill has his own voice. If his themes are reminiscent of his father, it's more likely because, like Stephen King, he tends to write on familiar themes. Only he does so in a way that makes you realize you were never quite as familiar with those themes as you thought you were.

There are bleaker aspects here than are usually found in King's works (unless it's a Bachman book). Where King's protagonists usually suffer their mental breakdown after the pages of their own story, usually as a quick side note in the next book, Hill is not afraid to take his characters there mid-book. No, that's not a spoiler, because it's one of the things that makes the book a richer, more authentic experience. Let's face it, if most of us were living through the events of a horror novel, we'd be gibbering in the corner somewhere before too long. Hill also seems to have a greater range of characters, because as much as I like King, with some of his books - Under the Dome in particular - I have felt that he is at times drawing on stock characters. That may simply be a product of having been writing for so long, whereas Hill is, to some extent, just starting out (not really, but as this is only book #4 I'm going to take liberties with that phrase).

If I'm drawing too many comparisons between son and father, it's only because the similarities were there. But while yes, there was much of this that reminded me of a great King book, and while, yes, I would recommend this book toKing fans precisely because of that, it must still be said that this is not one of King's. Joe Hill has his own voice, his own approach, and that, too is something that I would say to recommend this book. Because maybe you know the father, but you don't know the son yet.

And you should get to know him, you really should.

Take it from someone who got there at the beginning.

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