Author: Joe Hill
Genre: Horror, Fiction, Fantasy
My Rating: 3.5 stars
“The difference between childhood and adulthood, Vic had come to believe, was the difference between imagination and resignation. You traded one for the other and lost your way.”
I can’t say I’ve ever read a book quite like this one. When the synopsis said that Charles Manx can slip into hidden roads and take children to “Christmasland”, I assumed this was a tangible place he created that existed in the book’s real world. But Christmasland exists on a road made from dreams, and the ideas and concepts in this book drift far away from what’s accessible in reality. This book had a number of fantasy elements, and that allowed for much of the horror we were presented with to manifest itself. I read a lot of fantasy; this mashup of horror and fantasy worked in a way that kept me engrossed from page one.
– an evil car with a mind of its own, fish tanks lined with scrabble tiles instead of rocks, a bridge to lost things
– buildup of tension, scenes so frustrating and filled with despair you could feel it yourself
– too lengthy; dragged in spots
– wanted to feel for the characters more, wanted to see more of Christmasland
I liked Vic as a character, and appreciated that we got to see her grow while learning about all the struggles she faced along the way. I wanted to hate her half the time, and her lack of drive did frustrate me, but Vic and her troubles felt real, and it helped me to empathize with her and to care about what happened to her. She made some really questionable life choices and we watched things fall apart for her, but receiving constant threatening phone calls from monstrous children by telephone (real or toy) will do that to a person.
“Manx’s children were not children at all but cold dolls with teeth. One boy sat in a branch and held a serrated bowie knife as long as his forearm. One little girl dangled a chain with a hook in it. A third child— boy or girl, Vic could not tell— wielded a meat cleaver and wore a necklace of bloodied thumbs and fingers.”
I had two issues with this book: the length, and the fact that half the characters were awful people with few redeeming qualities. The majority of the characters lived gluttonous and irresponsible lives, and while they experienced trauma and events that led them down these paths, I wanted to see them rise above their demons. I felt sympathy for these characters, but was dying to see them rise above their bad habits and change for the better. In a sense, some did, but I felt like the majority of them didn’t make enough of a change for me to like them personally. This led to scenes falling flat that should have brought out strong emotions in me, and kept me feeling detached throughout.
“In the droning, apocalyptic darkness, there was at least no Christmas music. How she hated Christmas music.”
The author had a habit of mixing reality with visions and other-worldly things in a way that left you wondering from page to page what was really happening and what was in the characters’ heads. I was convinced at times that everything was a long delusion that Vic was suffering from. The writing was detailed without being overdone, and I never had trouble picturing the situations the characters found themselves in, no matter how bizarre. There was a section where the MC was moving from room to room, and the writing transitioned into the next chapter as she did so; this device added an extra layer to the book and helped me appreciate the story that much more- it made the book feel almost interactive. This book is part of a genre that I don’t venture into all that often, but I don’t regret taking a chance and going out of my comfort zone, and will probably check out more from Joe Hill in the future.