Joyland – Stephen King

RIP8main300 Mystery
Dark Fantasy

Words I love to hear year round but even more so during September and October when Carl from stainlesssteeldroppings is hosting a special reading event called
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril or R.I.P. The participants have to read at least one story or watch a movie that belongs to any of the genres mentioned above. I really enjoyed participating last year with The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert, Bedtime Stories – Edited by Diana Secker Tesdell and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, so I decided to join again this year. The event ends October 31st so there’s still time if you decide to take part.

Joyland -Stephen King The first book on my list is Stephen King’s short novel Joyland, which came out this year.
Devin Jones, the main protagonist, is a college student who takes a summer job at Joyland, an amusement park run by an elderly gentleman, Mr. Easterbrook. It’s 1973 and Devin plans to go to college the following year. His mother is dead and his father lives alone in a big house, mourning his wife’s death.
The summer job turns out to be quite enjoyable. The work is physically demanding and the pay not that great but Devin makes a few friends and begins to like it more and more. It’s also a good distraction from thinking about his girlfriend Wendy all the time.

The people working at the amusement park get along with each other for the most part – Lane Hardy is all smiles and encouragement, Rozzie the fortune teller does have some fortune telling abilities which people don’t take seriously until they come true, and Tom and Erin are just college students like Devin, working summers to save some money towards their education.
That summer Devin meets a little girl whose life he saves, and a little boy whose life he can’t, and both encounters affect him profoundly. Then there’s the Horror House, a place where a few years ago a girl was killed, her body found by the staff, her murder a mystery for years. Some claim to have seen her at the place where she was murdered, her spirit wandering, seeking closure. Devin becomes intrigued by the mystery and with Erin’s help starts putting together the facts in the hope of discovering her killer, a bold move which nearly costs him his life and the lives of the ones he cares about.

First I have to say that murder mysteries are not really my cup of tea, unless it’s Sherlock Holmes doing the investigating, and of course everything has to take place in a Victorian setting. That being said, I love King’s books and so decided not to skip this one. His writing is easy to follow, the story built up nicely, the characters intriguing – I really hoped to see more of Rozzie, or Madame Fortuna – her working name at the amusement park, but she only plays a small role in the story. The little boy in the wheelchair was another interesting addition, and so was his little dog, Milo.

It took me a while to get used to the “carny” lingo – specific words used by the staff at the amusement park, and had to go back once or twice to remember what certain terms meant. What I really enjoyed were the references to other writers or their work: Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Joyce Carol Oates, and I may have missed a few others. And Devin Jones, or Jonesy as some people called him, reminded me of a character in “Dreamcatcher”, another one of King’s books. I treasure these little gems.

If you’re looking for a horror novel, this is not it. Or maybe I have read too many and crave the intensity of not knowing what happens next, that pure adrenaline rush when your body turns cold and the benign shapes in the room become monsters. A murder mystery, definitely, with a bit of supernatural thrown in for an interesting flavor and just a sprinkle of horror. That being said, it was a good story and I had fun getting lost in it for a few days. I look forward to reading “Doctor Sleep”, King’s latest novel and the sequel to “The Shining”, which I have yet to read as well.

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13 Responses to Joyland – Stephen King

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    I have not read King in years but I am thinking of reading Dr. Sleep perhaps after a reread of the Shining.

    I had heard good things about this one. There is a certain mystique surrounding carnivals that make stories that center around them intriguing.

    • Delia says:

      You’ve read The Shining! It’s been on my list for a while… Maybe we should have a “Stephen King Month”, like we did with Dickens in December. 🙂

      If you decide to give this one a go, I’ll be very interested to read your review. It was an ok book but knowing King and what he can do with a story, I expected more mystery and more horror.

  2. Vishy says:

    Wonderful review, Delia! Glad to know that you liked Stephen King’s latest book. I loved the cover image but I was also surprised because it looked like a book cover from another era. After reading your review, I realized that it was a murder mystery. The book looks like an interesting page-turning mystery and surprisingly thin for a Stephen King novel. I will look for it. Thanks for this great review. Hope you enjoy reading ‘Doctor Sleep’. Will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

    • Delia says:

      I felt the same, Vishy, didn’t know what to make of that cover until I read the blurb at the back and then started reading the story. I guess the 70’s are indeed another era. 🙂
      He doesn’t write slim books very often does he? 🙂

  3. It’s funny, the only book I’ve read by Stephen King is “On Writing”, which I loved. Never read any of his fiction, though. Maybe it’s time to remedy that!

    • Delia says:

      You’re off to a great start, Andrew. Now you can start with a short story or maybe jump straight into one of his lengthy novels. If you decide to try one of them, I’d be very interested in reading your review.

  4. Athira says:

    I would like to read this one. Stephen King horror just doesn’t call to me but these kind of books – I would love to read.

  5. Priya says:

    Nice review! I know what you mean about getting lost in the book. It was so engrossing. I didn’t feel like analysing every detail once I was done reading; the ending was very sweet and it made me not want to go out of my way to point out the things I didn’t like about the book!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Priya,
      What can I say, I am picky. 🙂 I’ve read quite a few of King’s novels and expected more creepy out of this one, but then it’s a “murder mystery” and I knew what I was getting into, sort of, so I shouldn’t complain. 🙂
      Glad to see you enjoyed it.

  6. Deb Atwood says:

    I think I will like this one, too. I haven’t read much Stephen King though I’ve enjoyed his work as movies. I’ve read On Writing, which I quite liked, and for RIP, Bag of Bones. Bag of Bones sounds somewhat similar to Joyland in that the horror element is downplayed with more attention paid to character development.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deb,
      On Writing was excellent, wasn’t it? I should read that again…
      I found Bag of Bones a lot more intense and satisfying than Joyland because King tells us why that woman was murdered and the details and circumstances are a lot creepier.
      I hope you like Joyland – it would be great to see your thoughts on it.
      Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

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