Joe Hill: Taking the keys to the Kingdom

It takes me a very long time to finish a book these days. I’m mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted most days, so that the effort to read becomes an exercise in just trying to keep my eyes open and my head up. Especially if the book is 689 pages.

But something about Joe Hill‘s newest novel, NOS4A2, has really kept me going – even now to the tune of $10.00 in library late fees and possibly having to pay to replace the novel because I’ve kept it so long.

I just can’t let the story go unfinished. I have less than 100 pages left now and the story is reaching the final climactic battle between good – a mother searching for her child – and evil – the man who has taken hers and so many others. And yet, I can only read a few pages per night because, well, I simply don’t want the story to end!


The story is fairly simple on the surface – murderer steals children and one mother tries to stop him and save her son. Being a novel by the son of The Horror Master, Stephen King, it obviously can’t be that simple when you get down to it.

No, there is more than the simple touch of the supernatural here in a world where some people are able to create reality from their thoughts – their Inscapes – and do amazing things. They usually need a totem, or focus, to harness the power and it’s only partly conscious. One person has a watch and can go backward in time. Another can read Scrabble tiles to tell the future. And Vic, the tragic heroine, has a covered bridge which takes her to lost things.

It gets more complicated than that, but Hill also keeps the book grounded in a reality that seems all too real as we follow Vic from her childhood discovery of her power into adulthood, when really believing in magic – not just that of a Harry Potter film or the sci-fi of Firefly – means you’re crazy and worthless.

So, as the best heros and heroines must, Vic has to beat her own demons before she can tackle the real demon in Charlie Manx.

I won’t go into more about the story, for fear of predisposing you to something which is either right or wrong. The magic of a story is in the discovery, after all.

If you haven’t already discovered Joe Hill, NOS4A2 is a definite must, but I would actually suggest picking up his other novels – The Heart-Shaped Box and Horns – as well as his collection of short stories – 20th Century Ghosts – before tackling NOS4A2’s magnitude. And also don’t forget his excellent graphic novel ghost story series – Locke & Key. It’s no children’s comic.

But then again, if you love a good Stephen King novel – and I’ll say again a “good” novel – then you might be up for this. He takes elements of his father’s best style – both in storytelling and easy readability – but makes it his own. He definitely has earned the keys to the Stephen King-dom.

KBPS interview and reading with Joe Hill, March 20, 2013


One response to “Joe Hill: Taking the keys to the Kingdom

  1. I completely agree. Hill has definitely escaped his father’s shadow. His work is thought-provoking, and conjures images long after you’ve finished the reading the last page.

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