Gollancz, out now
All little children love to go to Christmasland, surely – at least that’s what Charles Manx believes. But Vic has been there once, and when her son is kidnapped, she knows what she has to do…
Joe Hill’s third novel is a terrifying story that confirms his place in the modern American horror pantheon alongside Robert McCammon and his father, Stephen King. From the first scene, as a nurse is frightened out of her wits by the threats issued by an apparently comatose person, to the epilogue when what appear to be loose ends are properly sorted out, the reader is pulled through the tale at a speed that fits the Triumph motorbike central to the story, rather than the Rolls Royce Wraith with the titular licence plate.
There are echoes of other stories – McCammon’s Mine also charts an epic quest across America to save a child, and King has written more than once about vehicles who reflect their owners’ evil passions, or even control them (and father and son have even collaborated on a reworking of the classic Richard Matheson tale Duel) – but Hill gives the tale a voice which is clearly his own. Stylistic tricks work well to convey the sense of moving from place to
The Next Place in much the way that Vic is able to transcend barriers of space thanks to a unique form of transportation. Vic herself is a believable character – a child at the start of the book, she becomes an adult damaged by her exposure to Manx and his quest for revenge against her.
She’s helped by a coterie of characters who jump off the page – from a Scrabble-scrying librarian to a comic book geek who has a genuine Captain America moment – while Manx himself is one of the great grotesques who doesn’t see himself as a monster and is genuinely horrified by the world that has grown up around him.
Verdict: With some images which may well haunt your dreams, this is the horrific side of the American Dream brought to life. 9/10