Wednesday, 5 June 2013
Joyland by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I should preface this review with a disclaimer; I'm a huge Stephen King fan, and there's always a chance that I'm a little too forgiving when it comes to the flaws with his books.
That said, there is very little that could be considered 'flawed' in Joyland. This may well be King's most gentle book to date. The writing drifts along like a mid-summer afternoon, relaxed and comfortable and with a sense that it will never end. The prose doesn't sparkle, there's nothing technically clever going on here - it's just a very well-written book. Dev's voice is familiar and comfortable, and even when nothing much seems to be happening I found myself wanting to read on just to get more of that voice.
King's other Hard Case Crime book - 2005's The Colorado Kid - was, to me, a novella-length character study rather than an actual novel. I enjoyed it, but I felt that it was distinctly lacking in substance. Joyland, on the other hand, has none of those issues. It's fairly short - particularly for a King novel - but it packs an emotional punch far beyond its 284 pages. King does a great job of foreshadowing what's to come, and by the time we finally meet Annie and Mike we're already emotionally invested in them as characters.
My only quibble with this book is a matter of genre. It's billed as crime, and there's certainly a mystery wrapped up in the text, but it's not a mystery that King gives us much chance of solving. Sure, when the denouement comes and everything unravels it's easy to see where the hints and clues lay, but the story is so concerned with Dev and Mike and Annie that it's easy to forget that there's a murder mystery going on here, and that we should maybe be thinking about solving it. If this was billed as straight-up literary fiction I would be giving it five stars, but I was expecting crime and didn't really get it.
That said, this is a fantastic book and I'm already finding myself wanting to re-read it. With time Joyland could easily become one of my favourite King novels, and if he's as on his game with Doctor Sleep as he is here then 2013 is set to be a great year for King fans.
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