The trap one tends to fall into when reviewing a Stephen King book is to judge it not by how enjoyable the story was but by how it stacks up to King'sThe trap one tends to fall into when reviewing a Stephen King book is to judge it not by how enjoyable the story was but by how it stacks up to King's prodigious body of work (specifically his classics).
As tempting as that is, I don't think it's either fair or helpful, thus I will attempt (perhaps futilely) to judge "Joyland" based entirely on its own merits.
Nah, nevermind. Can't be done. (ahem)
"Joyland" succeeds where all of King's greatest works succeed-- not so much as a story but as a time machine, transporting the reader back to a different era, creating a textural backdrop that is as interesting, as immersive, as the story itself (and perhaps moreso). For that reason alone, "Joyland" deserves three of the four stars I gave it. The sights, sounds and smells of 1970s era North Carolina, of the dying age of the carnival amusement park, provide a mental vacation rich enough to feel almost like its own memory.
The fourth star is for the other thing King excels at-- believable characters. Devin Jones and his small universe of friends, tormenters and old and new loves is not so much sympathetic as simply real. The true beauty of King's work is that even the smallest characters seem to go on being themselves after the story's eye looks away. In fact, each and every character in King's world seems like a story of their own, happening just out of the corner of the eye, but probably just as interesting.
The only reason I couldn't give this story five stars is because of the trap I mentioned above-- I know what King is really capable of. I've read "The Stand" and "Pet Sematary" and "Christine". This isn't as richly layered as they are. But at the same time, it isn't as seemingly haphazard and (I hate to say it) baldly silly as "Under the Dome". It earns all four of its stars for being a great mental vacation, for making me friends with Jonesy and Tom and Erin, for being just creepy enough to tilt the universe of the tale about five degrees from the mundane, and last (and yes, in this case, least) for being a story worth reading and caring about....more
I enjoyed this story, as the author, because it gave me so much more wiggle room for invention. Taking the storIs it bad form to rate one's own book?
I enjoyed this story, as the author, because it gave me so much more wiggle room for invention. Taking the story out of Hogwarts and into Alma Aleron made it a much more personal story, and allowed me to make up my own rules along the way, which I quite like.
Furthermore, the Megaplot (as I call it) is finally becoming fully evident. In this story our main conflict is finally introduced, along with the key players. It is a bit more grown up than my previous installments, but is hopefully still quite accessible to somewhat younger readers.
Will there be a book 4? Well. It already exists in my head. It's just a matter of making the time to get it down into words....more