Thursday, 24 April 2014

#CBR6 9: NOS4A2, Joe Hill

Page count: 720 in paperback, although once again, I read the Kindle version
Time taken: seven hours?

Victoria McQueen is a kid when she discovers an unexpected talent for finding lost things. A creepy talent, which only gets weirder as she gets older. Charles Talent Manx also has a creepy talent. He kidnaps children and takes them to a magical place called Christmasland, where their teeth turn into tiny hooks and they play forever. Their paths collide several times, and Vic is forced to repeatedly confront the dark places in herself and others, and question how much she is willing to lose - and sacrifice - on the way.

This book creeped the everloving shit out of me. I read it in feverish chunks over several days, unable to put it down for hours at a time until I was forced to stop because oh my god, little hooks for teeth, or something worse. I enjoyed it immensely, which I did not really expect, and I really empathised with the ensemble cast of weirdos and fuckups (except Manx, I hate that guy) - unexpectedly so, given how badly they mess up their lives and the lives of people around them at times.

The book touches on a lot of really complex ideas, like the nature of identity, the destructive power of genius, and the surprising and unexpected inheritances we get from our parents and theirs. Hill is no doubt deeply irritated with people doing this, but to me it pretty clearly drew on elements of his own life - his father is Stephen "I write all of the books" King - albeit I really, really hope his home life was nothing like the lives of his characters. Still, as someone who regularly thinks about her own physical and psychological inheritances, I was particularly struck by those motifs in the later parts of the book.

Hill deals with various different kinds of mental illness, destructive personality traits, and conflicted relationships really well, whilst never really making it feel like a effort or an object lesson. Occasionally, this cut really close to the bone for me, but never passed across the invisible line into triggering. I would exercise caution if you're particularly sensitive about issues surrounding child abduction, addiction and self-harm, and mental breakdowns, as the book returns to these themes pretty regularly.

My favourite part of the book was where Mr De Zoet was listening to the Cloud Atlas symphony, because I love David Mitchell too, and I'm always thrilled when writers I like like other writers I like. I've only read another couple of Hill's works, some of the Locke and Key graphic novels, but I will absolutely read more when I get the chance.

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