Stephen King is such a successful writer he has reached the point where he embraces his quirks and doesn’t care who notices. He has two obvious ones: Loving the sound of his own voice and forcing his fringe political views on his characters. Joyland avoids the former.
Joyland is a Hard Case Crime book (never read a bad one) that packs a wallop. Dev is working at the Joyland amusement park in summer 1974 between college semesters. He becomes friends with Mike, a kid dying from MD, and his sexy single mom. He also finds the ghost of a murdered girl in the funhouse. The book is fairly short and tightly written and plotted; it’s King at his absolute best. He is incredibly talented at putting us in the character’s shoes and making his characters come alive as people without a wasted word. We care about little Mikey and fear for his safety. We love that Dev has a crush on Mike’s mom. There’s a murder mystery too, about finding the killer of the funhouse ghost.
While Joyland is a great overall read, the ending isn’t. Writing the story in his old age, the protagonist, out of the blue, rants on about why so many good people have died in his lifetime while Dick Chaney gets a new heart and keeps on living. It really jarred me out of the story and made me dislike King’s antagonism. If that's how King feels, fine. But does he really have to wish a specific person dead because he doesn't agree with them politically? That’s a nasty, unnecessary thing to do and takes the book from five star rating down to three, at best. Great story, awful ending.
Rating: *** out of 5 stars