by Joe Hill
I struggled with this book at first; it seemed... bitty. It jerked around a lot; there was a lot being told and it had a quality about it that suggested the writer was born into the MTV generation - which, indeed, he was. It was also different than his previous novels (which one hopes will be the case), but it was different in that I struggled to continue reading it for a while because it made me feel uncomfortable.
It is a book that parents should avoid, because it plays on just about every fear a parent has and doesn't offer one shred of redemption from those fears. You read it almost knowing that there isn't going to be a happy ending; that this is Joe Hill's Pet Semetary, the book so many people love that was written by his father and offers nothing but death, despair and cold relentless end. NOS 4R2 does that almost from the first word; it's harsh, uncompromising and very, very unlike his father's books, despite being a horror novel.
Stephen King doesn't write books like this; books with a world view; books that contain real characters that are shown unreal things and simply cannot comprehend them. In King's novels, the weird happens and people, kind of, accept it. Even something as 'worldly' as Under the Dome it was about the people coping rather than the reaction from the other side of the barrier; this book plunges the real world into an impossible situation and it's what makes the book shine so brightly.
I have just finished NOS 4R2 and I still can't shake the feeling that there are probably thousands of holes in it; also that I shouldn't care about characters who have not been created the way his dad creates characters; these are no rich tapestries of humanity, Hill tells us what we need to know, the rest is unimportant (and I liked that too).
I will give no spoilers except to say that at the end the tears were in my eyes. Also, it does something really clever, so clever you will laugh despite it not being a funny thing. It also allows the 'real world' to accept that 'something' happened but to carry on regardless, which is why at some point, at the end, you know the book has to finish, because the epilogue would open a beer barrel full of worms (and probably worms with teeth) and I'm not sure how anyone in reality would deal with the unreality of it all.
It is a really creepy, scary and almost slapstick book. The villains are both very, very nasty and yet behave at times like the Chuckle Brothers doing Burke & Hare. The main protagonists are all really likeable and it all fits together really well and at the end you look at the book and wonder why his dad couldn't write something so good. Don't get me wrong, there are Stephen King books that piss on this from a great height, but there hasn't been a King book since (imho) Insomnia that is as good as this (albeit for different reasons).
You know when a critic calls a book 'a roller coaster of a ride'? Well, this is. A quite brilliant book, with a superb and spectacular denouement and a simply perfect ending.
9½ out of 10