Themes: / crime / noir / amusement parks /
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. Joyland is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.
I’d like to think of myself as an experienced Stephen King reader. I’ve read about 25 of his books, but that’s only about a 3rd of what he’s written.
At first I found myself wondering if I had the author right. I kept waiting for horrible things to happen: evil clowns, monsters, Randall Flagg. You know, a Stephen King book. There are carnies, but no evil clowns. That’s probably not fair on my part, he has written a variety of things over the years, and not all of it is horror. Still it’s what he’s best known for, and it can be a bit surprising when evil isn’t lurking around every corner.
That isn’t to say this book doesn’t have some spookiness and a sense of the fantastical going on. Joyland is about a 21 year old college student named Devin Jones, recently ditched by his girlfriend who takes a summer job working at an amusement park in North Carolina called Joyland in the 1970s. One of Joyland’s biggest attractions is the Horror House, said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl who was murdered during the ride a few years past. That sounds more like the Stephen King we all know, right?
During his job interview, he meets the resident “psychic” who gives him a prediction about his future. He’s skeptical, because surely, it’s all just an act for the show, right? What follows is a time that Devin will never forget, and a story I greatly enjoyed. It’s actually quite heart warming in places. It’s really a book about people more than anything.
It’s certainly not one of his scariest books, but it’s one of the best of his I’ve read. It’s certainly more The Shawshank Redemption than It. At only 283 pages/7.5 hours it’s much shorter than Mr. King’s usual fare as well, but I’d definitely recommend it as a quick read.
The book is narrated by Michael Kelly who is probably better known as an actor than as an audiobook reader. This is the first book I’ve listened to with him. Unsurprisingly he speaks in a clear manner, with good inflection. He does a few accents for some of the characters, but not all.
Review by Rob Zak.