Number of pages: 283
A book by Stephen King set in an amusement park sounds like it should throw up all sorts of horror clichés, right?
While it sounds like a predictable story that he should have written years ago, it isn't, and while King is most well known for writing horror stories, you have to remember that many of his stories and novels (e.g. The Green Mile, Hearts in Atlantis, Dolores Claiborne haven't exactly been horror novels.
Set in the 1970s, the book is narrated by Devin Jones who gets a job at Joyland amusement park, mostly involving dressing up as "Howie the Hound"; he finds himself enjoying the work so much that he stays on there. Devin is still recovering from a bad break up with a former girlfriend, who he is trying to forget, and there is also the small business of a string of reported murders that have taken place in the amusement park's funhouse. Devin also starts saving peoples' lives, and is hailed as a hero, and then a woman shows up with her disabled son, who is apparently able to predict the future, and who chillingly tells his mother he wants to visit Joyland before he dies.
There were two things that were quite refreshing about this book - firstly, it was considerably shorter than King's previous novel, 11.22.63, and secondly the murder story was mostly secondary to the other themes of the book, which is primarily a coming-of-age story with a largely romantic plot. As usual, Stephen King brings his narrator to life very well, and the dialogue made me want to keep on reading. In addition, I loved the vivid portrayal of life in the amusement park, which seemed to be the main focus of the storyline. There was a good depiction of the very creepy funhouse, which actually turned out to have very little importance to the plot aside from its links to the murders.
Eventually the book becomes a straight thriller, which typical King-style chills, but no obvious horror, and when the murder plotline comes to the forefront, there is a very satisfying final confrontation, followed by a very well-written and poignant finale (though be warned; you might need to reach for the tissues shortly before the end).
Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely, and it shows that Stephen King really hasn't lost his creative touch.
Next book: Feet of Clay (Terry Pratchett)