The plot, the narration, the history, the characters--this is one one of my favorite books ever.
I was very excited to download this book and began listening to it almost right away, before several others. Heart Shaped Box is my favorite horror/scary/ghost story of all time, different from anything that Stephen King or anyone else has written. The characters were fantastic, including the evil villain; everyone acted with understandable motives, good or bad, and sometimes both. I liked Horns a lot too, not quite as much perhaps, but it too was unique.
In contrast, NOS4A2 reads like another long Stephen King novel, and not one of his best either. The protagonist, Vic, is likable enough, but the villain, Manx, is simply a caricature. The only real explanation for his behavior, and for Bing's behavior, is that they are crazy, but craziness as an explanation for evil behavior is a cop out and entirely uninteresting. Compare this to the "villain" in Heart Shaped Box who seeks revenge for the shabby way his daughter was treated by the "hero." And remember how the "hero" evolved from an unlikable character to an admirable character. And remember how his girl friend also evolved from a nameless bedmate to become a true heroine. And remember how in Horns the hero ended up being the devil. Here, there is no real evolution, and everything is black and white, good or evil.
This book, unlike Hill's earlier ones, is unnecessarily gruesome in too many spots. I'm no prude, and I don't object simply because a book is filled with profanity or occasional gruesome images when they are necessary to advance the story. But (minor spoiler alert) was it really necessary to describe how Vic's hair was filled with portions of Bing's body?
Having said all this, I was never bored. The story was interesting and suspenseful enough that I looked forward to listening to it in the car. The narrator was pretty good (but no female narrator can beat Katherine Kellgren, in my view). And even a relatively inferior Stephen King book is still pretty good.
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