Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Reviews 24 & 25: Double Feature by Owen King and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Unknown-1I didn’t plan to read these two books right after one another. And I didn’t originally intend to compare them to each other, but really, I couldn’t help it.

Stephen King’s sons are both fine writers, and they each have a certain gift for storytelling. Joe has proven in his earlier works (Horns, 20th Century Ghosts, and Heart Shaped Box) that he’s practically a chip off the old block –he takes some horror, mixes it with real life, and often has trouble wrapping it all up in the end, just like dear old dad. But I didn’t mind, because usually (although I must admit, I barely remember Heart Shaped Box) the first 2/3 of the story was worth it. Owen was more of a mystery to me, as I hadn’t read his previous book of interconnected short stories.

Both books had one thing in common: a main character who proved themselves VERY difficult to like or care about. But other than that, they completely stand on their own.

I think of the two, I slightly preferred Double Feature. DF is the story of Sam Dolan, son of B-movie actor Booth Dolan. Sam has lived his entire life resenting his father and attempting to step out of his shadow and make his own name in film. As the story begins, young 20-something Sam writes and directs his first movie. Its a terrible experience for Sam, one that ends up changing his life forever in many ways. I wasn’t too invested in this part of the story, and when King suddenly jumped plots and timeframes, I welcomed it. The book continues along, telling the story of Booth and Sam’s mom, Sam’s childhood, and Sam’s life 10 years after his disastrous film project. We meet a cast of outlandish characters: a crazy (literally) assistant director, a construction contractor who can’t stop adding on to his own house, Sam’s insane step mother, Sam’s teenage half-sister, his sloth-like roommate who won’t go outside the apartment, a lunatic catcher for the NY Yankees, a former college girlfriend, and a college janitor who becomes famous for all the wrong reasons.

The book was well written and I enjoyed the time and POV changes. While it wasn’t a laugh-out-loud book, there were parts that made me smirk and smile…I might classify it as a satire.

On the other hand, we have NOS4A2, Hill’s huge vampire novel. I didn’t dislike it, but was surprised that I kept putting it down and wondering what else I had to read instead.

Teenage Vic McQueen has a special bike that takes her to a magical bridge that doesn’t exist. When she crosses the bridge, she can find things. Her mom’s bracelet, her friend’s cat, or even answers to the questions she’s beginning to have about her sanity. On one of her final trips across the bridge, she comes across Charles Manx, an ageless monster who has a magic trick of his own. Manx uses his Rolls Royce to drive to Christmasland, where children live forever in complete innocence. He abducts them from their parents (who are then usually raped and murdered by Manx’s lackey), and drives them to Christmasland on the roads of his imagination. Vic and Manx cross paths and she becomes the first child to ever escape from him, which he doesn’t forget — even after he’s dead.

Of course, Vic grows up and has a child of her own. Vic battles addiction and sanity, always wondering if the trips she took over the bridge in her youth ever actually happened. When she finally feels she’s getting her life back together, Manx comes looking for her and her son, so that he can take him to Christmasland. And finally, that’s when the book started moving for me. Too bad that it was about 2/3 of the way through. And the ending was great, too (unlike Horns and many of daddy’s books).

Hill is a great storyteller. But I think his little brother is a better writer. And I’ll keep reading whatever the family writes (I just got Joyland and will be reading that soon) to see how and if they continue to influence each other.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #58: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I may be in the minority here, but I didn’t like this novel as much as Joe Hill’s previous novels. I think part of it is that I didn’t read the description of the novel too closely, and basically ordered it because it was by Joe Hill, and I assumed that it would be about vampires based on the title. I was excited to see Hill’s take on vampires, especially given his father’s treatment of them in Salem’s Lot. However, while the character referred to in the title certainly has vampiric qualities, sapping life energy from others to remain alive, it isn’t a straight up vampire story as I expected. Additionally, I like Stephen King a lot, but one thing I’ve enjoyed about Joe Hill is that even though he works in the same genre as his father, his voice is very different and distinct. This novel reminded me more of his father than any of his previous works, which isn’t a bad thing, but it felt odd.
The novel begins with a creepy prologue, introducing the now comatose Charles Talent Manx, the novel’s villain. Of course, this is a horror story, so the reader immediately knows that there is no way this man will stay incapacitated. From here, the story flashes back in time to its protagonist, Victoria, or the Brat. After their return from a family holiday, 8 year old Victoria’s parents begin to fight about a lost bracelet, and Victoria wants to end their fight. She runs off with her trusty bicycle, and discovers that she can make a bridge with her mind that will take her to the things she is looking for. She doesn’t mention it to anyone, and makes up cover stories for how she found the lost items, which she even believes herself though she knows the truth deep down. As she gets older, she has questions about this ability, and the bike leads her to a person with answers. Victoria is not the only one with this type of skill, though in manifests differently in everyone, the one common factor being that all of the people have talismans, such as Victoria’s bike. However, the use of these skills takes a toll, exhibiting as illnesses and eye issues in the case of Victoria. During this conversation, she also learns of Charles Talent Manx, a man that has been using this ability to keep himself alive and kidnapping children in the process.