Joyland – Stephen King
“Joyland” will be the 21st book of Stephen King’s that I have read. I am sure I don’t need to say anymore on the man then I have already said in previous reviews. However, the interesting thing about “Joyland” is that King has no intention of releasing the book in electronic format at this stage. He has cited that he wants to pay homage to the old fashion crime/detective books of the past. It is an interesting choice but certainly didn’t alienate me from snapping the book up.
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.
For anyone that has never tried Stephen King before. Maybe you have listened to his detractors or horror simply isn’t your thing, I implore to read this book. At only 283 pages long it will not up too much of your time but what it does do is give you a perfect insight into Stephen King’s writing style.
There are not many people better than King in finding a likeable “voice” to tell a story. His point of view characters are always so candid, so natural and so damn readable.
“Joyland,” focuses on Devin Jones (Jonesy), a 21 year old boy who is besotted with his girlfriend Wendy. When Wendy breaks his heart, Devin spends obtains a summer job at Joyland, a third tier amusement park. It is here that we are introduced to the world of the carnival life. It is a subject that I am becoming increasingly fond of having enjoyed the TV show, “Carnivale,” and Robert Jackson Bennett’s, “The Troupe.”
King openly admits in a letter at the end of the novel that although he used a reference book for many the carnival terms and language, he also made up a few of his own. The truth is it doesn’t matter. Not unless you are a carnie purist. To me, King captures the essence of the Carnival world perfectly.
Devin is a great character. Naive in love, he has an innocence that is engaging. The enjoyment he experiences working at Joyland oozes through the pages. The summer evenings spent with his new friends makes you yearn for the endless summer of your youth. No one consistently writes coming of age stories as good as King and this one is up there with the best.
Each secondary character introduced is a joy to read. Unlike some of his other novels, where the characters are extreme in their nastiness, King shows us just enough of each character to hint at what they are like. It is helps create the element of mystery around the novel whilst also creating an emotional depth.
The supernatural element although present, is broadly kept into the background of the story. It works well as a result. Although, the characters do not doubt there are some outlandish elements to their lives, it never intrudes on how they go about their business.
This book is part of the “Hardcase crime” novels - a series of novels that deal with old fashioned noir crime. To be honest the link is tenuous at best. There is nothing distinctive about the writing style akin to the noir genre and even the crime element is minimal. What you do get is a fantastic yarn. Elements of the novel are very touching and had me beaming at the book. The ending (which I think King is finally getting very good at), is well resolved and satisfying. “Joyland” although short is King at his best.
My rating: 9.4