At this point I assume most people in the horror field know about Joe Hill, and I hope everyone appreciates just how good he is at his craft. The man knows how to write a story. Short, long, graphic novel, whatever, he can do it all. Hill currently has one short story collection (entitled 20th Century Ghosts) and three novels: Heart-Shaped Box (the first book of his I read), Horns and the recent release N0S4A2. And I can say each one is worth reading. I’d even go so far as to say they are all required reading for horror lovers. I admit I didn’t think Horns was as incredible as the others, but it’s definitely still worth a read. Hill can create such well-developed characters and stories, but it wasn’t until N0S4A2 when I saw he could create worlds with such scope and depth.
So listen – I read a lot. A lot. And I’ve read tons of terrific stuff, but I can’t remember the last time I actually exclaimed aloud while reading a book. Until N0S4A2. As I neared the end of the novel, I reached a certain part (which I won’t reveal here, it’s too good to spoil) where I was so tense that when this particular event ended I gasped out loud with relief. I didn’t even realize I was saying anything (or that I was so damned tense in the first place). This sounds like nothing, but for me that’s huge. And that’s the kind of novel this is. One that makes you gasp aloud even when you’ve read so many things. Hill isn’t afraid to make characters with major flaws, and yet you still want them to succeed, despite some unlikable/questionable choices they make. But unlike other books and movies, I don’t feel that Hill used the plot hammer to say “EMPATHIZE WITH THIS CHARACTER”! I just did. Each character has so many complexities, and the places they’re taken to (both physically and emotionally) are devastating, beautiful, terrifying.
It’s no secret anymore that Hill is the son of Stephen King, and I’m calling shenanigans on the level of talent within that family. That is ridiculous in the best way. As JennyD wisely stated, this might be the first family where the lineage of literary terror can be passed down by bloodline and is totally legit.
Regardless of lineage, Hill is a kickass author in his own right and should be read as soon as possible.