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Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 25, 2013 MYT 8:47:09 AM
By TAN SHIOW CHIN
“EVERYONE lives in two worlds.
“There’s the real world, with all its annoying facts and rules. In the real world, there are things that are true and things that aren’t. Mostly, the real world sucks.
“But everyone also lives in the world inside their own head. An inscape, a world of thought.
“In a world of thought – in an inscape – every idea is a fact. Emotions are as real as gravity. Dreams are as powerful as history.”
So says Maggie Leigh, a rather unusual librarian with a special gift involving Scrabble tiles.
Protagonist Victoria “Vic” McQueen finds her way to Maggie at the point when she really needs someone to tell her that her gift of being able to find lost things by crossing a long-gone bridge on her Raleigh Tuff Burner bicycle doesn’t mean she is crazy.
Maggie explains to Vic that there are certain strongly creative people in the world who are able to use objects unique to each person to cut the “stitches” between the real world and their own inscape, and bring them together to express their own particular gift.
For Maggie, it is getting otherwise unknown information through her Scrabble tiles. And for Vic, it is finding lost objects by riding along the Shorter Way Bridge, which was destroyed when she was eight, on her bike.
However, like all such “gifts”, there is a price to pay for using them, a fact Vic is unaware of until she meets Maggie.
The problem is, the price is not always an obvious one.
Vic, whose adored father eventually leaves his unhappy marriage and family, grows up to be a troubled teen. One day, when she is 17 and attempting to run away from home, she rediscovers her old Raleigh bicycle, long thought to have been disposed of when she was 13. In a fit of teenage pique and self-pity, she rides it to find trouble across the old Shorter Way Bridge, and find it she does.
At the Sleigh House on the other side of the bridge, she meets Charles Talent Manx III, another gifted person like herself, but who uses his gift for a more sinister purpose. Charles, whose special object is his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith, likes to take innocent young children in his car to a special place in his mind that he calls Christmasland, where they can have “fun” and be “happy forever”.
And he has been doing this for a very long time now.
Naturally, he is very interested in Vic, who has similar talent to him, but she succeeds in escaping and getting him arrested by the police, although at great cost to herself and others.
This deed reverberates throughout the next several years of her life, affecting her mental and emotional state, and her family life. For Charles is not so easily defeated, and with the help of accomplice Bing Partridge, he eventually comes back to get his revenge on her.
Vic was not exactly an easy protagonist for me to like, or even sympathise with at times. Author Joe Hill writes her quite realistically, and without compromise. He also applies the same grey brush, but inversely, to the story’s villains, Charles and Bing. By the end of the story, you can understand how they came to be how they are, and more importantly, to understand how they view themselves.
The concept of inscapes, and being able to cross the divider between the real world and our in-ner thoughts where anything is possible, is not original but it has always been one to fascinate me. And I appreciate how Hill uses the concept in this story as a tool to explore what consequences can come of our actions, and how some gifts come with an unavoidably high price.
Readers interested in such a concept should check out this book.
Similarly, if you understand the meaning behind the book’s title NOS4R2 (or NOS4A2 in the United States version), which is also the licence plate number of Manx’s Wraith, and are interested in that genre, then this story might be of interest to you.
Also, fans of Stephen King might want to take a look at Hill’s work, as the two have a link. (If you don’t already know the link, you can check out the Acknowledgements at the back of the book for strong hints – I’m not telling!)
There are also various literary references incorporated into the story – kind of like the “Easter eggs” that animated features are famous for – if you can spot them. For an example, look out for mention of the Frobisher sextet from the novel and movie Cloud Atlas.
And as a bonus for readers who really do read everything, Hill has included a short extra something right at the back of the book, just like the after-credit scenes in certain movies.
Tags / Keywords:
An inscape, NOS4R2
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