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_NOS4A2_, by Joe Hill
Bar Harbor
Short review: This is the first time in years I've stayed up until 2 AM to finish a book.

_NOS4A2_ is the latest horror novel by Hill, I've been a fan of his _Locke & Key_ comic book for some time, but hadn't previously picked up any of his prose. Shall have to rectify that, as this book was damn good. Yes, it's full of horror, but even more full of humanity. And magic. And pop culture. Like Daryl Gregory, Hill is very much a 21st century author, very comfortable with the concepts of remix and mashup. You could tell that from the title alone, taking a seminal media vampire name from the early 20th century, and recasting it in l33t-speak.

That title, by the way, is in some ways misleading. The character it refers to is, in some sense, an ugly vampire, but is really something far more unique. He doesn't drink blood, and is part of no pre-existing mythology (though the book as a whole is full of intertextual references, on many levels).

One of those references is an early plot thread about a girl who stumbles upon magic involving a bicycle and a bridge. Hill clearly grew up reading many of the same books in the "kids discover magic" subgenre as I did, as he is *so* in tune with my learned intuitions as to how magic and children work (in both this and L&K).

This book also exhibits many of my (and kestrell's) favorite horror tropes: Loser protagonists, adults being either actively evil or just too feckless for children to depend upon, an incredibly strong sense of *place*... Also, it kept me guessing right up until the last chapter whether this was going to be the kind of horror story where the good guys restore the social order in the end, or the kind in which the horror remains undefeatable. Naturally, I'm not gonna tell you which it was :-)

While this novel borrows from many genres and media, it is correctly labeled as a horror novel. Awful things will happen to many nice characters who don't deserve it. If you can't handle that in your fiction, stay away. Also be warned, this novel makes the entire idea of Christmas into something scary.

But if you *like* horror, this gets Very Highly Recommended.

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Re: Xmas as something scary

You didn't see him at Boskone a couple years back? He is the cutest, most adorable puppy of a horror writer I have ever heard--totally sheds the broody gothic sterotype.

Also, you really need to read _Locke and Key_--it's as if a bunch of teenagers from an Edward Eager book found the MacGuffen to the magic universe, but it's a Lovecraft magic universe. Also, it really is very good.

Oh, but the reason I started to write this is: of *course* CHristmas is scary! It's the longest night of the year, birthday of werewolves, the time when the veil between worlds is thin, and all sorts of ghosts and ghoulies can crawl through. That's why they call them "winter tales."

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