Book Review: Joyland

Published July 24, 2013 by mrsrag

Author:  Stephen King.  Crime/Mystery/A Smattering of the Paranormal.  288 pages.

Easily the best author of my lifetime, perhaps any lifetime, Stephen King has been entertaining and scaring the shit out of me for over three decades.  From The Stand (my all-time favorite) to Cujo, Christine, The Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, Hearts in Atlantis, Carrie, The Shining, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, It….sorry I have to stop.  The list is nearly endless, and I’m sure my point has been made.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a person on this planet who hasn’t been touched at some point by the man’s words; in print or on the screen.  We recently embarked on a colossal road trip and we made the wise decision to bring a book on CD, Joyland, with us.  Set in the 1970’s in an amusement park in North Carolina, Joyland follows the story of Devin Jones, a young man working his way through college at a summer job.  Sad and confused because the love of his life has seemingly cut him loose, he makes new friends and learns of some dark secrets at his new position on the midway.  Devin tells us the tale of his summer those many years ago, teaching us the language of the “carnies” and pulling us into his attempt to solve a cold case murder along the way.  Devin is a writer in the present, and I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that Stephen King has written A LOT of himself into the character.  Joyland is yet another masterpiece of story telling from the master of masters.

I am nowhere near the caliber of Stephen King fan that my writing partner is, but I thoroughly enjoy the man’s work.  I think the first King masterpiece I ever experienced was Carrie.  And holy crap, what a first!  I don’t think I slept for a good week.  The depth of his stories and the details that create unbelievably vivid characters are a distinct characteristic of his exquisite writing.  He can paint a picture so well that you feel as though you know the people and the places as he’s creating them or describing them to you.  We had an added effect since we were driving right through North Carolina and other towns mentioned in the tale, both on the venture up and the trek back down the Eastern seaboard.  Including an exciting stop by the writer’s home in Bangor, Maine!  We hadn’t even planned on checking out his digs, but we literally were in the neighborhood.  The story was also markedly enhanced by its reader, Michael Kelly, known for numerous acting gigs on some small and big screen features.  You’ll recognize him, but it’s hard to describe one specific role he’s played…


This guy is really good.  We’ve listened to our share of audiobooks and Kelly was by far the best reader ever, his different voices for both male and female characters alike were spot on.  It truly improves an audiobook experience when you have an entertaining reader who cares about the integrity of the story.  King does so much research for his novels and this is evident in the way he nails down specifics like the jargon between carnies.  I found Joyland suspenseful, exciting, intriguing and intelligently delivered.  It was an excellent choice for our trip and would be a great decision if you find yourself bored in the car.

We listened to, and ripped via review,  Fifty Shades of Grey.  Beyond being some of the worst writing in history, the woman who narrated the story was abysmally putrid.  Michael Kelly was nothing short of phenomenal on Joyland.  Of course, he was working with light years better material, but you could feel that he was invested in the story.  The narrative flowed so naturally that I was totally immersed in it.  Devin Jones is a good guy, trying to do the right thing, and you’re right there with him every step.  Nothing too creepy or scary in this one; when all is said and done you’re left with a good, old fashioned, twisting murder mystery.  Well mostly, but with a few Stephen Kingian ghosts thrown in for good measure.  I loved trying to figure “whodunit”, and did a pretty good job I might add, though not without a bit of waffling.  Also, it was truly a kick seeing SK’s house in Bangor.  Nice, big, but not pretentious, and nary a feel of foreboding while standing in front of it.  The only glimpse of anything dark were the bats on the fence, and they were cool not scary.  I couldn’t thank the guy enough for the hours and hours of joy he’s given me through his books and movies.  And Joyland is right there with some of his best, as he proves again, that he doesn’t NEED to shock or scare us to keep our attention.  But damn, he is sooooo good at it.

He is truly a master of his craft.  One of my favorite things about King is how he examines a different perspective of the human condition in each of his tales.  Joyland examines the difficult nature of growing up; coming-of-age while dealing with the trials of love, the emotional impact of loss and the certainty of death.  King seems to have a deep understanding of all these experiences, which is why he can deliver his message with such clear conviction.  Whether you give it a listen or a read, Joyland is a thrill ride you don’t want to miss.


Ross’ Rating:  5 Bookmarks out of 5!

Maria’s Rating:  4.5 Bookmarks.

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