NOS4A2 Review

At WonderCon in Anaheim, California this weekend, AMC announced that June 2 will see the premiere of their adaption of Joe Hill’s book, NOS4A2, which stars Zachary Quinto as the vampiric, Christmas-loving Charlie Manx, and Ashleigh Cummings as the young Vic McQueen, who tries to rescue his victims.

In addition to the release of a new trailer (which features children with pointy teeth and puts Manx and Vic clearly at odds with each other), WonderCon attendees also got a chance to see the full first episode of the series. The pilot is creepily good, with showrunner Jami O’Brien capturing the horror that fans of the book will instantly recognize.

How the Book Translates to the Small Screen (Spoiler Warning!)

While the essence and tone of the story remains the same on-page and on-screen, readers of Hill’s more-than-700-page book will notice there are differences as well. “My task was to stick as closely to the book as I possibly could while still making a television show,” O’Brien explained during the panel. “In the first third of the book, Vic is a kid, and the story is also really compelling and super dramatic, and I wanted to show every moment of it. That said, I knew that we were going to cast an adult actor, so I thought let’s just say that maybe Vic gets her powers later.”

And the change works; the major things that impact Vic—her parents, her drawing, her bike (well, dirt bike in the TV show), the covered bridge—remain the same.  And her journey to discovering her powers—the pain behind her left eye, how she first “found” the covered bridge when her parents were fighting—remains intact. Fans of the book will see Hill’s story here, even if Vic’s age is different.

There are other differences between the show and the book, of course, and most of the changes make sense and work well. In the first episode, for example, we get to see more of Vic’s life in Haverhill, Massachusetts than we do in the novel. We see her at school (where a certain Bing Partridge, played by Olafur Darri Olafsson, works as the janitor), and we see her hanging out with her peers. The show also uses her relationship with Willa, her rich friend, to really hammer home the classicism in her town (something that’s not touched on much in the book). When Vic mingles with Willa’s other friends at a house party, she is the black sheep of the group (literally – she’s dressed in black while everyone else looks like they’re in a J. Crew catalog) because doesn’t have rich, college-educated parents. And while sometimes the messaging here is a bit heavy-handed (there’s a flirty/teen-angsty moment with one of Willa’s rich snotty guy friends that made me cringe), the focus on the class divide adds another dimension to Vic’s world that fits into who she is as a character and how that will shape her actions in the future.

Other differences include seeing scrabble-loving librarian Maggie Leigh in the first episode (she doesn’t show up in the book until much later), and spending time with Charlie Manx’s pre-Bing wingman before he gets thrown to the curb. More changes are sure to pop up as the season progresses, but fans of the Hill’s work won’t be disappointed—the parts you love, the parts that matter, are all there.

What Will Happen After Season 1?

O’Brien also said that the first season, which is ten episodes long, will only cover a third of the book. It’s clear, however, that she has a plan in place if the show gets picked up for future seasons. “My goal is that it will take us a couple more seasons to get through the book,” she said. “One thing that’s really wonderful that Joe Hill set up a world full of strong creatives. So aside from Maggie and Vic and Charlie, there are other people in this universe with other kinds of gifts and powers. And those people, some are nice people, and some are more damaged people, and some people don’t have the best of intentions. And so, I think that, again hopefully, there’s a world where we could have 30 seasons of this.”

If the rest of the season remains as strong as the pilot, NOS4A2 book fans will gobble up those seasons faster than Charlie Manx sucks the life force out of a small child.

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