Joyland was never on my radar as a “must read” King novel. Yet, despite such a simple story, this is one I won’t forget for a long time to come.
Lately King has slowly been creeping away from the genre he is known for, instead writing stories that interest him. Think about it: 11-22-63. (Literary Fiction). The Bill Hodges trilogy. (Crime / Mystery). Revival. (Oh, let’s please not go there …). The point is, King’s not out to prove anything and quite frankly, I don’t think he cares if he scares anyone anymore, but what he is proving is that he is a master storyteller. And that begins with character.
What I’ve always enjoyed about King novels are the characters he creates. Somehow he’s able to breathe a life into them that very few authors ever achieve. Joyland is no exception, and its the characters that keep you turning the page, not plot or any story points along the way.
That being said, I have to admit I expected more from the ending. The whole “haunted ride” thing was over before it started and the climax felt frighteningly cliche, especially for someone who knows his craft as well as King. (Note, I added an adverb in there just for him). Like many of his novels of late, the ending just doesn’t live up to the long journey spent arriving there.
But who knows, maybe that’s King’s point? That the journey is so much better than the destination.
Regardless, Joyland was a spellbinding journey worth taking. You might not need your seat belt for it, but it sure provided some gorgeous vistas and an experience worth treasuring.