A review of Joyland by Stephen King

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

By Stephen King
Cover art by Glen Orbik
Hard Case Crime, 2013
ISBN: 9781781162644

It is clear right from the get-go that you’re in the hands of a master storyteller.Stephen King’s latest novel blends crime and supernatural elements – there is a killer to catch and a boy with second sight, not to dwell on the ghost that also makes an apparition – but it’s mainly a coming-of-age story along the lines of the classic Stand by Me.

This young fellow, Devin Jones by name, takes a summer job in a funfair in 1973, and what happens there changes his life forever.  Golden days of laughter and joy they might not always be, yet there is heroism to be found amidst the heartbreak.  You’re given a vivid sense of place, all the colour and flavour of the carny, and the story has enough contingencies and uncertainties (e.g. Eddie mightn’t have died, Annie may possibly have missed…) to give it the quality of life lived at a high pitch.  Indeed, you are engaged by Devin’s voice and then enmeshed in the suspense as his life is placed in danger.  The closing pages are a rollercoaster ride in more ways than one.

A fine novel, with a welcome take-home message to boot: bring the joy and fun to the party, don’t wait for it to be handed to you on a plate.

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com