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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, May 2013 - Christmasland is a place where every day is Christmas morning and every night is Christmas Eve. This might not sound like fertile ground for a horror novel, but rest assured; just as there's nothing funny about Pennywise the Dancing Clown in Stephen King's It, there's nothing merry about Christmasland in NOS4A2. Joe Hill tells the story of decrepit child thief Charlie Manx, who travels the country in his Rolls Royce Wraith taking mistreated kids to Christmasland, where they live happily forever playing games like "bite-the-smallest" and "scissors-for-the-drifter". The only girl who managed to escape his clutches and put Manx in prison for life finds that even Manx's death can't keep him from his quest to make sure every mistreated child is taken to Christmasland. As eerie as a Bing Crosby album played at half speed, NOS4A2 is a thoroughly creepy and compulsively readable supernatural thriller. Kate Mulgrew shines as narrator, turning in a spot-on performance as Victoria McQueen, a tough-as-nails if emotionally frail heroine. —Michael, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Finalist, Solo Narration - Female, 2014

Joe Hill, the acclaimed, award-winning author of the New York Times best sellers Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, plunges you into the dark side of imagination with a thrilling novel of supernatural suspense that will have you flinching at shadows and checking the rearview mirror again and again....


Don't slow down

Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn't tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie's twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.

And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble...and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie's unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.

But Charlie Manx hasn't stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won't slow down until he's taken his revenge. He's after something very special - something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds her magic pitted against his - Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all...or die trying....

Joe Hill's acclaimed works of fiction, Horns, Heart-Shaped Box, and 20th Century Ghosts, have already earned him international acclaim. With NOS4A2, this outstanding novelist - "one of America's finest horror writers" (Time magazine); "a major player in 21st-century fantastic fiction" (Washington Post) - crafts his finest work yet. Disturbing, mesmerizing, and full of twisting thrills, Hill's phantasmagoric, devilishly playful masterpiece is a terrifying high-octane ride.

©2013 Joe Hill (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Quite simply the best horror writer of our generation, Joe Hill’s masterful storytelling is on full display in NOS4A2. It is by turns terrifying and hilarious, horrifying and full of heart, and relentlessly compelling." (Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of The Prophet)
"Fascinating and utterly engaging, this novel is sure to leave readers wanting more. One thing is for certain, however. After reading this book, readers will never hear Christmas carols in quite the same way again." ( Library Journal, starred review)
"[A] new take on the fantasy-horror genre...Highly recommended." ( The Sun Herald Sydney, Australia)

What members say

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And Gold Doesn't Come Off

I usually don't rush out to buy the newest hot book to come out. I let those I am following read first before I chance my money. Having loved Heart Shaped Box and Horns, I knew I did not need to wait on someone else to tell me this would be good. In my humble opinion this is the best Joe Hill has written yet.

I am sure JH gets tired of being compared to his dad, but having recently read "IT" by Stephen King I can not resist. I mentioned in that review that even though King throws a lot weird stuff and mean monsters at you, it's all just cover, to introduce you to some great flawed characters that you fall in love with. Hill has lots of weird things and mean scary monsters, but he mostly builds characters. You are scared, not because of the monsters, but because you don't want anything bad to happen to the people you have fallen in love with. All though I am not sure that I like the fact that in the book "It" you learn to hate clowns and then Hill ruins Christmas in this novel.

The bad guy is described as a bald Keith Richards with big blue veins covering his bald head. You learn in this book that: The blood of a red headed woman is three degrees colder then a normal woman. A cop does not want to pin a murder on the Gingerbread Man, cause word on the street is "You can't catch the gingerbread man".

Warning: The main difference between Hill and King, is that Hill uses very foul language, a lot worse then his dad would think of and if you read Heart-Shaped Box then you know that Hill is fixated on Blow J@@s. I hate to sound chauvinistic, but the stuff that comes out of the mouths of the women in this book made me cringe. I grew up around foul language and have worked around over the road truck drivers most of my life. If you were alright with Heart-Shaped box then you will be okay with this. Like I said I loved both books.

I hate nepotism, so I am in the position to dislike this author, but the talent of Joe Hill can not be denied. I have all his books in First Edition and plan on collecting everything he writes.

Now if you are not tired of me gushing like a little girl, let me remark on the narrator. I am in total awe of Kate Mulgrew. If you have read the hardback, you still want to get this audio. Nobody could have done a better job. She even does male voices better then some males. I am hoping like Muller and King were, so will be the team of Hill and Mulgrew. I don't know what they paid her but it was not enough.

128 of 135 people found this review helpful

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  • Leslie
  • Newhall, CA, United States
  • 05-06-13

Gripping performance by Kate Mulgrew....

I'm a visual designer. I listen to audiobooks throughout my day while I work. So, to me, a "good" audio book is one that keeps my interest even while I am not focused on it 100%.
Once I started this ride, I couldn't turn it off. I listeneded in the car, at the gym, and as I went to sleep. Stayed awake until 4am on the 3rd day- just to finish.

I have sampled ( and rejected) so many audiobooks that promise a "kick-a$$" heroine, but deliver a shrill and unconvincing performance by the narrator. Mulgrew was perfection! I believed every word as Vic, and her performance of Charlie Manx struck just the right creepy chords.

I'll look for more from Joe Hill. But I think my next purchase may be anything narrated by Mulgrew.

148 of 159 people found this review helpful

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Finish to Start Excellent is Novel This

When you read this novel, it will become clear why my headline is written as it is.

NOS4A2 is a story you won't want to miss. Well written, with a fresh, compelling storyline. A chilling start, and then it slows a little, but that is just necessary for information gathering, and character building--which all comes together with dizzying speed. I literally could not stop listening - everytime I put the ipod down to do something else, I couldn't wait to get back to it.

At times I completely forgot I wasn't listening to a Stephen King novel, but I guess it is only normal that his son would have picked up some of his style over the years. Joe Hill is an excellent author, as shown by his many publications so far. This one is my favorite.

Charlie Manx is a really bad man of 100+ years old, who loves Christmas, and claims he has to "save" children from bad parents by kidnapping them and taking them to his Christmas Land to live. Unfortunately, most of the parents are killed or maimed in the process, unless they are saved to be used for "fun" games by the children in Christmas Land. One of the children who Manx kidnapped, escapes. Known as Vic (Victoria), she was a scrappy, tough kid who had a knack for "finding" things that were lost -in a way that even she didn't understand. Her gift becomes more clear to her as she grows into the strong and determined adult who fights the evil Manx to protect those she loves. It's hard to write a review without divulging too much information, but I haven't given anything away here, as this is all information you get quite quickly.

This is the first novel I've listened to narrated by Kate Mulgrew--and what a talent. She has a real grasp on what each character should sound like, and puts her heart and soul into it. I will definitely check out other works by her.

I feel lucky that so many King horror stories seem to primarily take place in my state of Colorado (Misery, The Shining, the Stand, etc) as does this one. I can picture where all the action takes place, as they are loosely based on actual locations or structures, which makes them deliciously creepy to read.

A special treat at the end of this novel is Joe Hill speaking about his writing, some favorite authors, and a little about growing up in the King household. Very interesting.

111 of 126 people found this review helpful

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D*mn near flawless

WOW! NOS4A2 puts Heart-Shaped Box to shame, no question. This is a phenomenal book made all the better by Kate Mulgrew's superb narration. We all know that a bad narrator can made an otherwise-great book unlistenable; believe me, no danger of that here! Mulgrew is pitch-perfect with every single character. Her interpretation of Manx in particular is skin-crawlingly good. I will certainly be purchasing any other projects to which she lends her vocal talents! Out of the 100+ audiobooks I've downloaded from Audible, I'd say I've had about a 50/50 success rate. Some have been sublime, others downright unlistenable. NOS4A2 definitely falls in the former category!

NOTE: This one starts off with a terrific bang then slows down for just a little bit to do some set-up. Don't be thrown off by the momentary lull---by the time you hit the two-hour-mark, things are revving up again and they never slow down for the rest of this incredible ride!

70 of 82 people found this review helpful

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Am I crazy?

Man, when I saw the reviews of this book I was super excited. The reviews are what got me to stick with it.... until with 5 hours left, I simply couldn’t take it anymore. It just goes on and on and on. I hated the narrator. I didn’t like the characters. The story could have been 8 hours if he had just left out all of the stuff that Just didn’t matter. Every time I stopped listening, I actually had to give myself a pep talk to start up again. Then cringe my way through the 5 minutes it took to get used to the narrator’s voice. After listening for over 10 hours, I was going to just skip to the last half hour so I could at least know what happened. So I did... but once she started in with Lou’s voice... I just turned it off. It just wasn’t worth listening to that terrible narration for one more minute. Again.... for ALL of the praise given to Ms. Mulgrew, maybe it is me. I would suggest listening to the excerpt first, if it bothers you AT ALL don’t do it. It only gets worse.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Terrific from beginning to end

What made the experience of listening to NOS4A2 the most enjoyable?

The wonderful characters and rich descriptions. And the "can't stop listening" level of suspense.

Any additional comments?

Very early on in this book I wondered "WOW, who the heck is this guy and why haven't I heard of him before? He could give Stephen King a solid run for his money" having no idea in the world that he was, in fact, a chip off the old King block until I looked him up online. As an author Joe Hill stands firmly on his own even though this acorn didn't fall far from the tree. Hill's style is in no way a lesser imitation of his fathers' work, although the writing is clearly influenced by it in all of the best possible ways. If you loved "It" or any of King's best, you really must read this one. Personally I can't wait to read more of his work.

Also: be sure to listen right through the credits where Hill sneaks in a creepy little plot epilogue, followed by an interesting author's commentary on audiobooks, the wonderful Kate Mulgrew, and his experience of growing up in a family of writers.

45 of 55 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • 05-25-13

A Great Story - Until The Wheels Came Off

I enjoyed the opening sections of this work. The author did a good job setting up the plot and outlining the characters and their respective roles in the action. As the story lumbered on, however, it seemed as if Mr. Hill had no idea where he was taking this tale when he first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) in Chapter 1. As Mr. Hill lost his compass heading, the story line unraveled under the weight of a poorly organized work of fiction. A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end; Mr. Hill's work was just endless middle.

The characters were the saving grace of this book, more due to the excellent performance of Ms.Kate Mulgrew than creative portrayals by Mr. Hill. I've not yet been inclined in my 10-year membership to listen to other works based on the performance of the reader alone. For Ms. Mulgrew, I plan to make an exception and will soon look to see what else she has done. She did a great job.

My advice: Save your money and look for Kate Mulgrew to read something else.

35 of 43 people found this review helpful

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I'm Dreaming of a Fright Christmas

"You better watch out, you better not pout...Charlie Manx is coming 2 town." Don't be surprised if this coming Christmas, when the snowflakes start to fall, the colored lights brighten the night, and Christmas songs tinkle from every speaker everywhere, you find yourself reluctant to trim the tree, refusing to let your children sit on Santa's lap, acting horrified when the kids want to build a snowman, and definitely throwing your Christmas CD's through the air like clay pigeons. Halloween will become the new jolly holiday, jumping next to New Year's Eve, because Joe Hill obliterates everything warm and cozy about the holiday no-longer-to-be-mentioned, including the once delicious homey smell of gingerbread, and choirs of *angelic* children singing's giving me bad goose bumps just thinking about their innocent toothy-smiling faces.

I have always said that a good scary book is my favorite guilty pleasure, and what I think is one of the hardest kinds of book to find...Merry Christmas to me...I found one, (but almost ruined Christmas in the process)! Hill has a jolly time here, visions of psychologically damaged children grown-up, bearing the weight of their injustices, acting on the misdeeds hard-wired into their little heads. Victoria McQueen (Vic the Brat) we meet during her troubled childhood. On her beloved banana seated bike, she can escape her quarreling parents, or just get away to another world by crossing a magical bridge that she can imagine, or conjure. It takes her to her *inscape*, a place where she finds things that are lost, or where she can stay lost, but a toll is taken out of her, no free ride. She grows into a tattooed, bad-ass, motor cycle mama that's not so good at the mama part to her son, Bruce Wayne -- haunted through the years by her memories of a specific trip across that bridge where she met Charlie Manx -- the Grinch's mean and ugly older brother.

Charlie Manx is no Nosferatu, sucking the blood from his victims; he is more like part Transformer, part chi-vampire, part Mr. Burns as a giant gangly giggly mortician that drives a vintage Rolls Royce Wraith that is connected to him psychically--and he/the Wraith is powered by the goodness and joy of children. He is aided by a demonic, sadistic oaf of an elf, the gas-mask wearing (literally Mo-Fo'er) Mr. Bing Partridge, and his ever present canister of gingerbread-scented sevoflurane (that gas that puts you out on the operating table while you count backwards from 100...and get to 96). The very naughty team do away with the pesky parents, then whisk the cherubic children off to Christmasland, where there are no rules, everyday is Christmas, and no parent can tell them what to do. Christmasland is Charlie Manx's inscape--his off the map destination to keep his hoard of children and stay away from people that want to stop his murderous ways.

Bing is a character that will be remembered (and dismembered?). Belittled and badgered one time too many by his cruel parents, he puts them to sleep for good, and takes over his dad's collection of porn. He is oafish and slow, and fond of childish demented rhyming. Charlie Manx was nagged by a wife that felt he was never good enough, and claimed he was *sucking the life out of his daughters,* (now residents of Christmas land what exactly happened to Mrs. Manx?..). There is lots of fun here, so much so that it is hard to look at this as just horror--can we say delicious horror? The puns, the metonymy, the tropes, the references to King's books (Salem's Lot, Christine, It, etc., the movie Psycho? The White Christmas song crooner? Batman? Maxwell's Silver Hammer?...) could make this a great ghoulish game of Bingo, or even better, a wild drinking game..."I found Pennywise!!" down the hatch...

Downside, I'd have to put Kate Mulgrew on the naughty list, her over exuberance did mellow, but jeez, it was painful in the beginning, and I think she herself mixed up the voice of whom was whom. Did an obsessively nagging wife turn Charlie into an energy-sucking fiend, did Santa miss him the year he wished for a puppy to dissect, or what is his black-back story, and how did he hook up with the Wraith? Some etiology or info would have been helpful to understanding his motivation. But then, I guess a monster's motivation is...he's a monster!

There's so much more I'd like to say (oh, the kiddies at Christmasland!) but I don't want to give away even one eye-popping detail. More like a 3.5 star, but like I always say, it's a hard genre to get a good book out of, and this was a lot of creepy scary fun. It could have been whittled down a couple of hours-but the time didn't bother me because I didn't want my trip to Christmasland to be over. Only my second book by the genetically gifted Joe Hill, I had read Heart Shaped Box, but I found this one the better package under the tree! If you are a fan of the genre, get out a tally sheet, or line up a couple of six packs, and definitely download, but remember, when your family is crying because you won't make a snowman with them -- I warned you...NOS4A2 is COMN4U.

74 of 95 people found this review helpful

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If you have the right 'equipment' you can travel imaginary roads and experience supernatural wonders...but you must pay the price.

This is a good horror story (strike that)...This is a REALLY GOOD horror story and Stephen King should be proud of his son who is most definitely a chip off the old block. At the start the listener/reader is enticed by the creepy title hinting at vampires, blood and gore but this is not precisely the case. The listener/reader is introduced to Charles Manx, an old man of +110 years, whose peculiarity is to be alive. After spending almost a decade in a coma and after being officially declared as dead, Charlie ‘wakes up’. This unnerving scene is the first of many. We learn that Charlie drives a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith…that is also ‘alive’. He and his minion (Bing) go looking for kids that are ‘brutalized’, taking them to Christmasland…a place where all the kids are happy and never want to leave. We also meet Victoria ‘Vic’ McQueen (also the ‘Brat’) who is the strong, complicated and far from flawless heroine. She discovers she has a rather special power as she is able to transport herself to different physical locations by pedaling her bike (her Raleigh Tuff Burner) and riding through a covered bridge. She can find lost things but is ‘costs’ her. Sometimes the things she finds are tangible, like her mother’s bracelet a lost picture, etc. but sometimes she encounters things that are less tangible; such as her meeting with a stuttering librarian (Maggie) and Maggie’s special scrabble letters. It’s when Vic goes looking for trouble that her story gets entangled with that of the malevolent and uniquely nasty villain, Charlie.

This supernatural suspense story is fused with well-developed characters that are complex in their own ways and the plot is interesting and moves quickly. Whilst being edgy, dark, scary and at times uncomfortable, the novel is also a book about family and the contentious relationships that exist between parents/children and husbands/wives. There are numerous scenes and characters that are memorable but of course Vic and Charlie are particularly unforgettable. NOS4A2 kept me up at night because I just could not stop listening. I definitely recommend this to any horror or suspense loving fan and to all who are on the hunt for a truly spellbinding listen.

42 of 54 people found this review helpful

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Don't fall asleep to this listen-You been warned!

Joe Hill really writes an awful (in a good way) novel..this was ucky creepy and I'm still thinking about it a week and another good listen later. It was truly not a fun listen and really got to me but I still am glad I listened. Made to be listened to rather than read, Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek "Voyager" fame shows her narrating ability in Hills' iconic horror novel..she has a flexible voice that can do many registers from high to low and displays an excellent ability to put the creep into creepy. Don't fall asleep to this will bring on BAD dreams......garenteed!

This is the kind of plot that makes the horror genre honk its horn in excitement. While there are some reminiscent scenes similar to Hills more famous dad's iconic novel "Christine", Joe Hill doesn't stand on literary parents productivity with this example of his work.

This book may wreck Christmas for some of you..I'm glad I listened to it in the spring as I don't want to hear "Holly Jolly Christmas" for a long time.

I'm quite serious about listening to it while falling asleep. I did and my brain was full of the monstrosity of the Rolls "Wraith" trapping ME and taking me for a ride while I slept.

I need to find a NICE book to listen to while I fall asleep I guess.

30 of 39 people found this review helpful