Disclaimer: I love Stephen King's writing so much that all appropriate analogizing fails me. He is the
voice of summer for me, a safety blanket in a sea of crappy books and immensely comforting. He has a way of transporting you, a lyrical narrative style that is uniquely identifiable and nostalgic for me. I will defend him to my dying day as being underappreciated and a genius storyteller both, but fair warning, if you're one of those crazy people who think King is a hack, this book is definitely not for you. If you're a Constant Reader, this is a go-to book for on the beach reading to start your summer off. All the trademark Stephen King elements are at play in Joyland
A) It takes place in the summer, the season that King knows so well he may have damn-well invented it just to set his stories in. I've never encountered an author so sensitive to the seasons and so absolutely talented in capturing them succinctly - with a fragment of a song, some waved off-experience shared by all Americans so common that we never pause to think of it, an image like a melting cone of ice cream - and using it to set the mood so thoroughly you can feel the sun on your skin and your shirt sticking to your back. I think it should be a general rule to start summers with King or Bradbury. It gets you into a groove that helps your summer reading list melt away.
B) Awesome children. It's a given that once you see a child, you know that they're pretty much the hinge upon which the story is going to unfold in Kingland, and that's no different here. What's awesome about it, in spite of its frequent usage, is that King children are awesome! They have a character and exuberance that sizzle off the page and goes hand-in-hand with the season. King's children remind us of our frailty, our mortality and what makes life worth living. They drop pearls of wisdom that are quotable one-liners that stick with you for the long-haul.
C) The everyman protagonist. As usual, what makes King's horror stories so horrifying, and his drama so vivid is his complete understanding of the human condition. In his own way, he's as insightful as any of the great Russian authors for his time. NOBODY captures day-to-day life like King, whether it's the trauma of heartbreak, the naiveté of being twenty-one, or the excitement of finding fast friendships and love where you least expect them. He understands the grooves of life that we find ourselves in, and he can express it in a thousand different ways that are so readily identifiable that you can't help but find yourself in the shoes of the characters that people his world. I couldn't tell you how many times I paused reading this to find myself musing, "That's EXACTLY what that feels like..." and if it weren't for those moments, I'd probably have torn through this book in an afternoon rather than a couple of days.
The Goodreads summary of the story is quite satisfactory, and I see no need to try and improve upon it only to say that if you're a fan of hard-boiled crime or detective stories and thinking this'll be a good bridge between your favorite genre and Stephen King, you're bound to be disappointed. This novel is nine-tenths good old-fashioned King yarn with about a one-tenth nod to the genre and label that paid the bills. Unlike his earlier entry in the series, [b:The Colorado Kid|10574|The Colorado Kid|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312856993s/10574.jpg|856005], which at least got the tone and archetypes right in the central narrative, this one hardly bothers. The Carny setting and the murder mystery are the noir tissue paper packaging an [b:11/22/63|10644930|11/22/63|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327876792s/10644930.jpg|15553789]-ish character study with more than the occasional hint of the paranormal. So if ghosts and psychics aren't your thing....move along and check out Colorado Kid
instead. Know this however: this book is a superior narrative stylistically, however puerile the plot.
Is it a mystery and plotting masterpiece? No, but there's so much life and vitality, so many beautiful off-the-cuff observations that capture the human condition that you don't really care about the convenient and kind of unimaginative coincidences that grease the wheels along. This one is short, sweet and is packed with so many emotions that I'd put it in my top-ten King books of all-time. Take your mind off the murder mystery and feel what it's like to be twenty-one again, desperately in unrequited love and trying to find your place in life.