Friday, October 25, 2013

NOS4A2 (Joe Hill)

Joe Hill's newest novel, NOS4A2, has a premise that sounded kind of familiar to me. There's a serial killer with strange space-time manipulation capabilities, a victim who manages to escape, and a build-up to a confrontation between the two sometime later. In its plainest description, it sounded a lot like Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls (though NOS4A2 was published a few months before). Fortunately for me, Hill's book is much better.

Victoria McQueen, variously called Vic and the Brat, has a special talent. She can ride her bike across the Shorter Way Bridge, a structure from her childhood that no longer stands; it takes her to places that aren't on the other side of where the bridge once stood. She uses it to find things, things that have gone missing. As a child, it's innocent enough--she finds her mother's lost bracelet, a photo of her friend.

But then we jump forward to bad-teen Vic, who, in an effort to irritate her mother, rides the bridge to find trouble. And she does, in the form of Charles Manx. Manx has similar powers of space-time manipulation, but he uses it to "save" troubled children. He kidnaps them and takes them to his imaginary haven, Christmasland, which exists only in his mind. He can take them there with his classic Rolls-Royce Wraith. Vic encounters him and barely escapes, rescued by a man on a motorcycle named Lou Carmody.

And then we jump ahead a little too fast--Lou and Vic have a son (Bruce Wayne Carmody), Vic is slowly going insane because obviously she's traumatized, Vic gets locked up and loses custody of her child, she ends up in rehab and finally this overly-forward motion grinds to a halt when Vic and her son end up spending the summer together at a peaceful New England cottage.

Except Manx is back from the dead and now he wants revenge for Vic's escape so he grabs Wayne and, in the Rolls-Royce, heads off to Christmasland. So it's a battle against time as Vic struggles to pull everything together and follow him, using the Shorter Way Bridge to stop her son from ending up a soulless creature like Manx's previous victims.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Backwards (Todd Mitchell)

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to preview this book before publication.

Backwards is a curious novel. It begins with the suicide of the main character, Dan, which triggers the birth (which maybe isn't the right word) of this unnamed spirit who begins to live Dan's life day by day in reverse. He makes it his mission to prevent Dan's suicide or, failing that, stopping an unknown danger from befalling Cat, the girl that Dan's spirit-thing (the book uses the term "rider") has fallen in love with.

So I liked the book. It was pretty short (something like 285 pages) and readable--is "readable" less complimentary than "engaging"? I'm tired of using "engaging" all the time but I feel like "readable" isn't an adequate synonym. I was certainly interested in both the premise and the outcome, but that's not to imply that the book was without weakness.

We'll start with the most glaring--it's a YA issue book. I mean, it begins with a teen suicide, and through traveling backwards, we find out that Dan has done something bad to that leads to his eventual suicide. The actual incident is also pretty YA-issue, and it's frustrating because the rider goes so long without knowing what it is (even though it's almost immediately clear).

Dan's rider spends most of the book loathing Dan, which is frustrating because I wasn't particularly a fan of the rider, either. While this book mostly avoids the "deep statements" nonsense of the YA curse, there is a scene in particular where the rider declares "everyone has a secret life" as if it's a big revelation to the world. Obviously. Obviously everyone has a secret, vulnerable part they try to keep locked up. Not a surprise.