It is your typical college boy story. Boy goes to college to study journalism. Boy meets girl and falls in love. Girl, however, is not so in love with boy. Summer comes boy and girl has to go separate ways. Girl finds a job (and a new “love”) in some other state. Boy finds job at carnival with colourful characters … which also involves a haunted mirror house with a ghost. Girl breaks up with boy (at least he didn’t get played with that “I have to concentrate on my studies” bollocks only to find out that she’s dating your swim team mate who is stupid enough to blurt it out to you … oh, I’m sorry, just a flashback detour). Boy decides to hang around with carnival beyond the summer. Sounds pretty much cut and dry, except it is not. After all, this IS Stephen King, mates.
And yes , I know … doesn’t sound like your typical chill-up-your-kilt scary King stuff that I’m always reviewing but when you like a writer … well … you can’t help it. Believe it or not, this is actually a crime novel (sprinkled with bits of supernatural shenanigans … of course). A bit like Stand by Me and Green Mile minus the jail stuff. In Joyland, the readers are guided through the story through the eyes of Devin Jones (the down and out on love lad), as it is written in the first person narrative. Starts a bit slow, but Devin’s life with the carnival is filled with colourful characters (each with their own intriguing mini-stories) that keeps the reader sucked in. Somewhere in the 70s, King’s tale captures a bit of nostalgia of a time when nothing said fun like the annual summer carnival and water park. And the best part was that there was not Twitter, Instagram and other such bollocks that kid us into believing that we’re capturing the “fun” moments of our lives. Really? I thought we already had a built in app for that and it does not come with contracts or limited memory and it was called … memories. And believe me, some things are best left in your memory than preserved on Instagram for the rest of the world to see. Think 80s, hair mousse and lots of neon-coloured clothing … on a black bloke. Hope you folks out there have a really good imagination because you will NEVER see that on web. Ah yes, great times. I detoured again, didn’t I? Just a wee bit.
One of the most delightful characters introduced comes in the form of Mike Ross, a young kid, with a terminal disease, filled with supernova wisdom packed into his short and tragic. Needless to say, he is one of these characters that will linger with you long after you’ve read this book. But just as the book is beginning to get all touchy-feely, and most readers are resigned to a nice calm roller coaster ride to the end, the roller coaster suddenly dips and plummets at a terrifying pace as the reader practically wets their undies holding for dear life. Yes, there is a ghost of murdered girl(Linda Gray), strange mutterings from a fortune-teller (Madame Fortuna), and a serial killer twist that would cause most readers to drop their jaws in the puddles of their own discharged body fluids. A bit too graphic on that one? Sorry. I need to control that.
The beauty of Joyland is that even though it is a first-person narrative, most of the characters we encounter have their own stories, that are intriguing, shocking, frightening and yes, tugs on the heartstrings. Did I weep like a nancy, you ask? Like bloody hell, I am going to admit that. (Ok … sort of … but I didn’t need a tissue). Splendid King as usual, and perfect for summer reading at the beach. Ah yes, you remember that … SUMMER. The other S word. Warm, sunny days. Girls in … oh, never mind me.