This is a monster of a book. It’s large in scope, packed with ideas and, for the genre, a stand out in that it creates something new, a complete mythology that touches on some of the concepts that Stephen King has used in terms of the idea of a collective unconsciousness made manifest. It’s a book populated with wounded, flawed people and the good that they do as well as an antagonist who manages to be utterly creepy and yet generates a degree of sympathy, coming as he does from a world view that allows him to justify the kidnap and transformation of children into icy, monstrous psychopaths, populating a land that resembles the kind of things Tim Burton used to dream about after too much cheese before bed. It’s a remarkable piece of writing, almost too much to take in at points which is why I intend to revisit it.
There’s a joyful energy to the work here. Hill has the steel and the discipline to allow the book to breathe, particularly in a melancholy interlude where we see the damage that occurs when people experience trauma. He has a lovely eye for the blue collar tragedy, approaching a levity and a compassion that recalls John Irving at points. It’s populated with pop culture and literary references that don’t feel hammered on, an awareness of itself that gives it the sensation of a rollercoaster ride into the darkness and a conclusion that is as sad as it is satisfying. He also knows the power of a dark suggestion as well as the kind of dialogue that makes you punch the air with triumph.
You won’t forget Vic, Lou, Wayne, Maggie and and you’ll wish you could forget Charlie Manx and his terrible, beautiful car as he drives children to the ultimate holiday destination. A candied, glittering hell on earth that you will come to know as Christmasland.
It’s a brilliant book that left me feeling richer for having read it. I can’t wait to reread it and see if there was anything that I missed first time around. Also, read the dedications and the back copy as well, because there’s a surprise that made me laugh out loud at the execution of it.