NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Remember Bullwinkle’s hat trick?

Hey Rocky. Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothing up my sleeve. Presto. (A rhino appears) Don’t know my own strength.

I love that gag. The moment is unbelievably funny because we know Bullwinkle is a doofus. When the unbelievable proves to be true we’re mesmerized. Our fascination with horror works the same way. When a writer with a well-packed Toolbox offers up the impossible as real, we can’t turn away. Joe Hill is such an author.

Not a horror fan? Get over it. NOS4A2 is so beyond horror-in-a-can, religious non-fiction fans will uncover latent urges to scream, “Don’t be stupid. Don’t go alone. Don’t go in there!” Of course, heroes and heroines never listen, and Hill’s Victoria McQueen may be at the top of Horror’s Daredevil List—another way this particular genre gets ahold of us. Horror makes us confront our fears, acknowledge our cowardice and remember, when we’re broken we discover our true strength.

Readers gravitate to flawed characters and NOS4A2 is riddled with people who know they’ve screwed up their lives and the lives of the people they love. Their self-awareness and their struggle to make amends endear them to us. Horror flicks are full of two-dimensional, stock characters, but none show up under Hill’s deft hand. Every character, even if dispensable, has roots. Whether we like them or hate them, their loss is felt and our investment in the story grows.

In an interview with Writer’s Digest, Joe Hill said, “In some ways, NOS4A2 is my rewrite of It.”

An element of Christine also presents in this haunting tale that explores the healing power and danger of imaginative worlds that can’t possibly exist. But Hill paints them with such assurance, all we can do is widen our suspension of disbelief and follow. Occasionally, we may question the goings on like FBI agent Tabitha Hutter.

I don’t—I can’t—understand this. I’m trying, Vic, but I just can’t make sense of it.

Then seconds later we’re all in. When a story sings, we don’t understand in our heads, only in our hearts—where the world of fiction becomes real.

Take a haunting ride in Joe Hill’s NOS4A2.