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Literature / NOS4A2

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NOS4A2 is a 2013 horror novel by Joe Hill.

Charlie Manx has built a wonderful place just for children, where it's Christmas every day. Kids get to have the greatest fun in Christmasland, riding the Sleighcoaster, feasting from La Chocolatier, or playing scissors-for-the-drifter. And the fun never ends in Christmasland, where these wonderful children get to stay children — forever.

At 116 years old, Charles Talent Manx has spent decades kidnapping children and taking them to Christmasland, a place built by his imagination in a world that exists somewhere alongside ours. By the time they arrive, they've been... changed. Victoria McQueen also knows how to travel to places that aren't quite there, using her Raleigh Tuff Burner bicycle to travel and find things that have been lost. At seventeen, she had a close encounter with Manx and was the first person to escape his grasp. Manx was sent to prison, and Vic was left to cope with a psyche deeply scarred by her encounter. Thirteen years later, Manx escapes and takes his revenge on Vic by "rescuing" her son and bringing him to Christmasland. With her unusual ability to find things, Vic may be the only one who has a chance at saving him.


A comic sequel/prequel, titled Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland and illustrated by Charles Paul Wilson III, has been released.

A television adaptation is currently in the works for AMC, set to air in 2019.

NOS4A2 contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Manx is described as having weasel-like features and an overbite. For the television adaptation he's being played by Zachary Quinto.
  • Adult Fear: The abduction of one's child.
  • Animal Motifs: With his noticeable overbite and narrow, pointed jaw, Manx is said on multiple occasions to have a face and head that bears more than a passing resemblance to a weasel's.
  • Annoying Laugh: Manx has a distinctive braying guffaw that makes him sound like a Corrupt Hick, in contrast to his other mannerisms.
  • Anyone Can Die: There is a significant body count among the main characters.
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  • Badass Gay: Maggie Leigh.
  • Bald of Evil: Charlie Manx, although his hair grows back as he regains his youth.
  • Bi the Way: Vic, though she prefers men.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Vic destroys Christmasland and saves Wayne, and Manx dies for good trying to pursue her afterward. Later, Lou destroys the ornaments that kept the kids trapped in Christmasland and allows them to return to the real world. However, Vic is dead (killed by a combination of a deep stab wound and the mental damage from the Shorter Way collapsing), and some of Manx's children escape.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Manx's children have them.
  • Brick Joke: Vic's father tells her in 1986 that the rickety Shorter Way Bridge has finally collapsed after some idiot tried to drive his car over it. At the end of the book, Manx and his car become displaced in time and crash through the bridge.
  • Canon Welding: In addition to the Shout-Outs to his father's work, Hill also refers to the Treehouse of the Mind from Horns and Craddock McDermott from Heart-Shaped Box.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The bats in the Shorter Way Bridge. Not to mention the gun-shaped paperweight labeled "Property of A. Chekhov." Although the latter doesn't count technically — it doesn't get fired (but used).
  • Children Are Innocent: Deconstructed.
    Joe Hill: The kids live in an eternal state of innocence, and it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Innocent children like to rip the wings off a butterfly just to watch it flop around, and they will laugh ’cause they don’t know any better. Innocence is ignorance. [1]
  • Crapsaccharine World: Christmasland.
  • Creepy Child: Manx's children have been warped into hideous monsters by the corrupting influence of NOS4A2 and Christmasland.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Bing, who, in addition to the number of women he drugged and raped, also drugged and raped the unfortunate man who owned the Wraith after Manx and who was forcibly brought along on a ride to Manx's inscape.
  • Disney Villain Death: Manx is caught in the collapsing Shorter Way, falls into a timewarp and comes out a thousand feet above a river, both killing him and destroying the Wraith so he can't come back.
  • Doorstopper
  • The Dragon: Bing.
  • Ear Ache:
    • Part of Charlie's ear is shot off by Bing.
    • During the climactic confrontation, Wayne gets part of an ear bitten off by one of the kids in Christmasland.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The "A Note on the Type" section reveals that some of Manx's children haven't been 'fixed' and are still at large.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Manx and his daughters. In the climactic face-off, Vic guns her Triumph straight at Manx's car while he and one of his girls are standing in front of it, and Manx instinctively makes the Papa Wolf gesture of getting between his daughter and the threat. In this moment Vic realizes that Manx is a Well-Intentioned Extremist at his core — like a great many monsters, he has a twisted but still caring heart and he genuinely believes his looney bullshit is morally good.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Manx is offended at the accusation that he molested or physically harmed the children that he takes to Christmasland. His attempt to kill Wayne near the end of the book suggests that he has finally grown desperate enough to violate his own moral code.
  • Expanded Universe: Joe Hill co-wrote a comic tie-in series called "Wraith".
  • Expy: Bing, "The Gasmask Man" is this to "The Trashcan Man" from The Stand. At one point he even says "My life for you!" after Manx abandons him for screwing up an attempt to kill Vic.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Manx can be quite charming, but when he's crossed he turns cruel and vicious.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: How Vic takes out Bing.
  • Friend to All Children: Manx considers himself this.
  • Kick the Dog: Manx kills Wayne's dog with his bone mallet after hitting it with the Wraith.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Bing is a gas mask dragon.
  • Geek Physiques: Lou is the obese variety. Until the epilogue when he gets gastric bypass.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Manx and Bing believe that they are 'rescuing' children from this.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Bing is killed via his own tank of sevoflurane exploding when Vic ignites the gas he's released around her.
    • Manx is crushed in his own car and dies (again) with a mouth full of motor oil.
  • Journey to the Center of the Mind: Effectively Christmasland is this for Charlie Manx.
  • Lack of Empathy: Manx and the children of Christmasland. Maggie thinks that NOS4A2 stole Manx's ability to feel empathy as his price for using it.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Subterranean Press released a limited edition that includes illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez, an alternate ending, a novella that was cut from the novel and — if you got the lettered edition — a replica of Charlie Manx's autopsy bone mallet.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Manx has some resemblances to Max Shreck (large bald head, narrow face, and fang-like teeth, made even more prominent by his overbite).
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: All of the paranormal events in the book work this way.
    • Vic McQueen has a bike that lets her instantly travel great distances and find things that have been lost.
    • Maggie Leigh has a bag of Scrabble tiles that can spell out important secrets to her.
    • Charlie Manx has a Rolls Royce Wraith that can travel to Christmasland. It also keeps him young... and consumes his (and later others') soul.
  • Market-Based Title: A small example; the UK version of the book is retitled NOS4R2 to better fit the British pronunciation of "Nosferatu".
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Maggie Leigh and Vic's father.
  • Meaningful Name: Possibly the Shorter Way Bridge, which surely isn't named that way in-universe because it shortens the ways for Vic.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: While driving to Christmasland, Manx runs over a hedgehog not far from the Iowa border. Hedgehogs are not indigenous to North America.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: One transformation that happens to the children of Christmasland is growing multiple rows of sharp teeth. One child's teeth go all the way back to her throat. Wayne slowly but surely transforms in this way under the Wraith's influence.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Vic goes from living in near-poverty with her boyfriend and son to making a successful career for herself once she comes up with the idea for a series of children's books.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: All of the protagonists have serious, human flaws — which they all acknowledge. A central theme of the book is that demanding perfection from reality is immature and ultimately as unhealthy as any other vice.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Although his license plate is NOS4A2 Manx is not a traditional vampire. Instead, he maintains his youth by his car draining the souls of children as he kidnaps them to a semi-imaginary realm. In the process, though, the children become something much more resembling traditional vampires.
  • Parents as People: At the beginning of the book, Vic idolizes her father and considers her mother a repressive shrew. She later learns that, while her mother might have been hard to live with, her father was sleeping around and occasionally hit her mother when he was drunk. After he abandons his wife and daughter, Vic spends years hating him, but they do manage to reconcile before they both die saving Wayne.
  • Pocket Dimension: NOS4A2's back seat is one, trapping anyone in it inside so they can't escape.
  • Police are Useless: Quite. And justified, considering Manx is not one who can easily be dealt with.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Both Manx and Bing are misogynists, though in Manx's case it doesn't apply to young girls.
  • Power at a Price: Using the Inscape ultimately drains its user over an extended period of time and comes with some sort of detrimental effect, either physical or mental. Maggie's stammer comes from using her tiles, and gets worse the more she does. Maggie belives that using the Wraith has caused Manx to become more and more of a sociopath. Vic has sunstroke-like symptoms after using the Shorter Way too much, and has migraine-like pain in her left eye. Later on, some of the bats inside the bridge escape, causing minor brain damage; more escape or are killed when Manx tries to run her and Wayne over inside the Shorter Way.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Bing. He likes to make sing-song rhymes (which irritates Manx to no end) and is clearly mentally deficient, and has murderous and rapacious tendencies that only get worse under Manx's influence.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: When Bing goes back to his old church (now a condemned ruin) to pray for Manx's safe return, God seemingly rebuffs this blasphemous prayer by sending him a Humiliation Conga — first a bird shits on his face, then he trips and lands on a used condom that gets stuck on his hand, then in his hair when he tries to throw it off. His response is to throw a tantrum in the middle of the church, then leave and come back with bottles of lighter fluid to burn the place down; he ignites the blaze by setting the crucifix on fire.
    "What?" he screamed to the church. "What? I came here on my knees! I CAME ON MY KNEES! And you do what? WHAT?!"
  • The Renfield: Bing; he does Manx's wetwork, i.e. disposing of the parents of the children Manx "saves." This often involves raping them after drugging them with sevoflurane.
  • Questionable Consent: Bing uses his "gingerbread smoke" (sevoflurane) on the mothers of the kidnapped children for this.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Bing murdered both his parents.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A demonic, semi-autonomous, murderous car? Sounds familiar.
    • The map of the United Inscapes of America includes the Pennywise Circus, Treehouse of the Mind, and the Lovecraft Keyhole.
    • After Wayne is taken, a cop mentions sending a Buddhist monk away to Shawshank.
    • A slightly ironic one. Bing complains about Wayne's name (his father is a comic fan, and named his son Bruce Wayne Carmody), saying that people shouldn't use silly comic book names, but normal names like John and Sue. If you use "Johnny" instead of "John", you get two very famous comic book characters — from the same title, no less.
    • Tabitha Hutter may be a reference to the character Hutter (the Johnathan Harker stand-in) from the 1922 film Nosferatu. Tabitha is also the name of the author's mother.
    • Bing Partridge lives on a street named Bloch Lane. (Perhaps coincidentally, there's a street in Silent Hill named after the same author.)
    • Charlie Manx mentions the True Knot, and how they are in similar lines of work. The True and Manx have apparently mutually agreed to stay out of each other's way. In turn, Manx was mentioned by name by Dick Halloran's paternal grandfather, a sadistic pedophile who likely practiced black magic.
    • Mister de Zoet is mentioned as listening to the Cloud Atlas Sextet, even mentioning Robert Frobisher by name.
    • Probably one: The unfortunate Demeter family. (Of course you must know which ship brought Dracula to England...)
    • Bing pledges "my life for you" to show his loyalty to Manx. The same words spoken by the Trashcan Man to Randall Flagg in The Stand.
  • Soul Jar: Manx's Christmas ornaments contain the children's humanity.
  • Speech Impediment: Maggie has a stammer, a side effect of using her tiles which gets worse the more she does.
  • Spirit Advisor: The ghost of Wayne's grandmother appears to him, explaining how to postpone the loss of his soul.
  • The Stinger: The "A Note on the Type" section includes a bonus scene.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The ending, with Vic blowing up Christmasland piece by piece.
  • Tomboyish Name: Vic is short for Victoria, not Victor.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Lou and Vic. Lou starts out fat and is morbidly obese to the point of cardiac problems, while Vic keeps her beauty (for the most part).
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The "Spirit of Ecstasy" on Manx's Rolls Royce is referred to as "the bloofer lady" by Nathan Demeter. It's a reference to the original novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, but the connection is never explicitly stated; Nathan is only said to be thinking of "something he once read".
  • Villainous Breakdown: Bing has one when Manx abandons him, and Manx in turn has one when Vic destroys Christmasland.
  • Villainous Incest: It's implied that Bing raped his mother before murdering her. He later has a thing for mothers in general, with a specific predilection for "mommy titties".
  • Villainy-Free Villain: The detective Daltry has nothing to do with Manx or Bing and doesn't do anything evil. He thinks Vic either killed her son or is in business with whoever did, but all the law enforcement characters suspect her for most of the story. Nonetheless, he's one of the most unpleasant characters in the book.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Manx genuinely believes that he is saving his 'children' from being abused or neglected by adults by keeping them as kids forever.


Example of: