I am a self-avowed sissy when it comes to horror. It's a genre I steer clear of--not into monsters, aliens, gore, twisted psychos, etc. I'm also not a fan of amusement parks, with the sole exception of Disneyland. I don't like roller coasters, the midway, creaking rides that feel like they're going to fall apart, or games of chance that you know are totally rigged.
So, why did I read Joyland, by Stephen King?
- I love time-travel books and read King's 11/22/63 last year and loved it. I was impressed by King as a writer and storyteller, and have been on the lookout for other King books that might appeal to me.
- I read a review of Joyland at Shelf Love this summer, and put it on the short list of King possibilities.
- It was the October book selected by the Goodreads TuesBookTalk Read-a-Longs group that I am a member of.
- It's October and everyone else in the book blogging world is reading spooky Halloween books, and while I don't like horror I do like ghost stories.
- It was checked in at the library when I stopped by a couple of weeks ago.
- I had just finished Madame Tussaud and I wasn't sure what I wanted to read next.
And...why did I love it?
King really is a good writer. His books are easy to read, his dialogue sounds like real people talking, and the rhythm of his prose sucks me in.
I liked the premise of Joyland--it takes place in the 1970s, and is nostalgic. I'm convinced that it's at least part autobiographical. The protagonist, Dev Jones, is 21, tall (6 feet, 4 inches), a wanna-be writer. King in 1973 would have been just a few years older, is every bit as tall, and was an aspiring writer. Dev is wonderful--angsty, big-hearted, self-deprecating, charmingly naive. He's a sweet kid, and I liked the fact that it was a story that he as a 60-something tells--this means that I know he survived the horrors he faced at Joyland, an amusement park on the North Carolina shore, during the fall of 1973.
I liked the world King created in Joyland--the beach town where the Joyland amusement park is the main summer attraction. I liked listening to the jargon of the carnys and the greenies (the new summer hires). I may not personally like riding roller coasters, but I love the anthropological and sociological thrill I get when I learn about a different culture or society.
I liked the whodunit aspect of the story--as a mystery, I thought King did a great job of setting up the red herrings, providing the clues, and literally providing the fun-house mirrors that distort what seems to be the truth.
I loved the idea that Dev is a life-saver (literally), while trying to track down the identity of a life-taker.
The pace was marvelous--this was not a hectic book wherein the reader is racing from plot point to plot point. The story unfolds leisurely. The setup is gradual. The side stories are intriguing, and the side characters are fully developed people with their own stories waiting in the wings. The final couple of chapters pay off big when it comes to thrills and tensions--I literally couldn't put the book down for the last 50 pages.
All in all, a very satisfying October book.