In Joyland, Stephen King delivers a thriller, a detective novel of the whodunit variety, where the killer could be any of the characters. But he includes his own personal style, spicing up the story with fantasy elements such as ghosts, telekinesis, etc.
In the summer of 1973, Devin Jones is a 21-year-old student that gets work, at Joyland, a small old style amusement park of, before the arrival of the modern theme parks. According to legend, amongst the employees, the House of Horrors is inhabited by the ghost of a girl who was murdered there years ago. While performing his daily obligations, Devin will be tying up loose ends that will lead him to discover the identity of the murderer.
As is usually the case with any of Mr. Kings novels, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. I savored each piece of the story, each sentence, each reflection that was generated. And I even got a little misty eyed at the end, as is almost always the case with this author. I think I can safely say that the book should appeal to the fans of Stephen King. But it is also fair to recognize that it’s not his best novel. Not by far, but with a bibliography like Mr. Kings, well, let’s just say he’s set the bar quite high for himself.
The novel plunges us into the atmosphere of an amusement park, with a classic aftertaste. The novel is narrated in the decade of the 70’s (King has recently dropped in on this era quite a lot which implies a certain nostalgic tone in his writing) and focuses on the life of a young man of 21 year old, Devin Jones. But rather than focusing on irrelevant details of his life, King focuses on his coming of age, he tells the story of the passage from adolescence to maturity. As Devin suffers his first failed love affair, he copes with it through the summer work at the park, and finds himself thanks his experience at the amusement park and his relationship with his peers, friends, and the visitors to the park.
This is not a fast paced horror novel, I would almost dare to say that it couldn’t even be considered in the suspense genre. It is a paused story that focuses on the psychological profile of its characters and their personal development. Little by little King achieves his end of enveloping us in this melancholic ghosts story, so that we arrives at its climax when we are totally fascinated by the characters, without hardly realizing it. This slow transition in the story is very well realized.
Another aspect of this work is the atmosphere in which he narrates the story: The amusement park. Both by the language used (King retrieves to the jargon and typical expressions of the fairground), as in the description of the environment and the attractions. In addition, he permeates this whole set with a tinge of suspense, with a crime that occurred there years ago.
In summary, this is a beautiful novel. Full of memories and very focused on the journey of its main character. An entertaining read.