Written by Ann Brennan
Lately the voices inside my head are scaring the hell out of me. Just last week as I was lifting weights at the gym the voices were so scary I found myself leaving my weights on the ground, covering my ears and heading swiftly towards to the door in an attempt to escape. Unfortunately they came along with me because I had not taken my headphones out and Kate Mulgrew’s voice and Joe Hill’s words were still pulsating in my ears, causing the hair to stand up on my arms and making me want to look for a safe place far, far away from Charlie Manx. Joe Hill’s latest novel NOS4A2 is one of the scariest books I have ever listened to.
Before I found Audible.com or even books on tape, I read Joe Hill’s father’s books. As I sat on a public transit bus reading Stephen King’s Misery, I literally screamed out loud in fear. Joe takes the fear further still. I find myself cringing slowly away, too afraid to scream and almost, but not quite, too afraid to run.
Adding to Joe’s beyond creepy story and characters, the narrator of NOS4A2 brings the characters to life. Her rendition of Charlie Manx and the Gingerbread Man had me turning off my iPod between sentences just so I could prepare for the next bit of dialogue. I have not listened to anything else read by this narrator but I will certainly be searching her out in the future.
I downloaded this book for my long runs. A great book is a great incentive for pushing through the more uncomfortable runs. Unfortunately I have found it impossible to listen to in all but a handful of circumstances. I cannot listen while running unless I am at the gym and even then I have found myself looking over my shoulder too often to make that safe. I can listen when I lift, if the wait room is crowded enough and I know everybody in there. I can listen in the car, but only if it is not dark outside and I am moving. I cannot under any circumstances listen in my house. I would be too afraid of letting Charlie in here.
The book is dedicated to Joe Hill’s mother but pays tribute to his father, Stephen King. If you are a fan of King, you will find references from many of your favorite novels. At first I thought this had to be simply because of his father’s influence on his reading but I have since read this was Joe’s way of saying, “Yes, Stephen King is my father and he writes some pretty good stuff, but I am not half bad myself.”
This is the third novel I have read by Joe Hill and although I liked the first two, I can see vast improvements to his writing style and his ability to weave a tale. He has found equal parts push and pull. Sometimes I feel like I am being gently pulled into the story while there are even more times that I feel like I am being pushed from behind, my heels digging into the ground trying to stop that forward motion.
The only flaw and I suspect that he will get better at this as he continues to write is that some of Joe’s character, as compared to his father’s, are more two dimensional. He has definitely brought Charlie Manx and the Gingerbread Man to full life but, the hero has not won me over, I am not going to miss her the way I missed the children in IT. That being said, I sobbed, big crocodile tears when one of the main characters died. I cried for the life she should have lead and the character I would not see again.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are looking for a great book to listen to while running or even a great book to carry in your beach bag, this is the one book you do not want to miss out on this summer.