Stephen King outdoes himself in his latest novel, Joyland. Released by the hardboiled “Hard Case Crime” brand, the book is depicted as a shallow thriller even as it straddles several genres such as horror and mystery, and ultimately can be described as a coming-of-age novel in a Ray Bradbury-setting. Bradbury references are present throughout, with many characters clear descendants of the archetypes laid out by Bradbury in Something Wicked This Way Comes.
The novel’s brevity is one of its greatest strengths—while King excels at the protracted epic (many of his books exceed or approach 1000 pages), King gets down to business and keeps the pace tight and purposeful. The actual “summertime” atmosphere promised in the novel ends within the first hundred pages, leaving time to discover autumn’s revelations, again referencing Bradbury, in which the October carnival of SWTWC takes on evil airs.
You can measure the success of a novel if you want to visit the fictional setting. Joyland is a place that feels real, and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t want to see “Howie the Happy Dog” and the “Wiggle-Waggle Village” myself.
The mystery itself, while I won’t give anything away, is not complex but King’s talent for buildup helps keep the novel going.
It’s a good read—a deep beach read, if you will—and I think that King earns his title as America’s greatest living storyteller. Expect Joyland as a Hallmark movie in a couple of years. It’s deserves better than a Hallmark adaptation, but it’s a feel-good story, just the same.
Hard Case Crime $12.95