Tag: 11/22/63

Joyland by Stephen King

Posted July 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Joyland by Stephen KingTitle: Joyland (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen King
Series: Hard Case Crime #112
Published: Hard Case Crime, 2013
Pages: 283
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Devin Jones has gotten a job working as a ‘carnie’ in a small North Carolinian town. The amusement park Joyland was a site of the legendary unsolved murder. The house of Horrors was where this murder took place, half way through the ride a man cut the throat of his date and threw the body out of the carriage. It wasn’t until the end of the night that they found the dead body (most people thought it was part of the house of horrors) but by then the man was long gone.

Stephen King is best known for his fantastical and horror elements but since this was a Hard-Case Crime novel, I expected more of a pulp novel rather than what I got. There was that pulp and gritty whodunit element but true to King style there was some supernatural components within the novel as well which for me seemed unnecessary; I felt like King sets up the novel in his normal horror fashion and then completely forgets about it. It wasn’t till right near the end that he returned to this plot arc, almost like he needed to wrap everything up in a nice neat bow so he had to finish off that arc as quickly as possible. Without these supernatural elements the novel would remain just the same and maybe even more realistic. There is the fortune teller who gets more air time but then that could be just a character that is really good at reading people and wouldn’t need to be explained.

Both the whodunit and horror genre styles don’t really fit this book anyway; this is a coming of age novel, dealing with Devin’s first real job, his first heart break, first sexual experience, as well as friendship and loss. The story feels like a noir or pulp novel by the way it is written but that all takes a backseat to the building of characters. Not that there is anything wrong with that but in pulp novels it’s all about the minimalism and jamming the novel with a fast paced plot. Joyland didn’t do this and I struggle to find a reason why this book was added to the Hard-Case Crime series.

So once I got past my initial expectations, Joyland does turn out to be a fairly enjoyable novel. It’s not what I wanted but it was still good. I’ve not read much of King in the past (The Gunslinger and 11/22/63) and both those novels really were not what I would have expected from a Stephen King novel. I must remember to read some of his classic novels like The Shining, The Stand or It just to see if what I expect from this author is different. I never expected so much character development and I never expected his books to focus more on the relationship with other characters, but it seems I might be misinformed about his works.

Joyland mainly focuses on Devin’s heartbreak, the girl he thought was the one and everything was perfect. You know your typical young adult, love struck thinking that never seems to be correct. This heartbreak really affects Devin, as all first heartbreaks do, but then he meets single mum Annie and her son Mike. Mike is such a great character and probably the only one I actually liked within the book and the relationship between the three blossoms in a somewhat awkward way. I felt like King had a good handle on the difficult relationship but some of the directions he took left me perplexed. This plot arc took up about two hundred pages and that only left 80 pages to really return to the mystery of Joyland.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I feel this book wasn’t marketed properly, this is not a noir style mystery and I don’t think it deserved to be put in the Hard-Case Crime series. As a standalone Stephen King novel I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it wasn’t marketed the way it was. Interestingly King didn’t release this book in eBook format, he wanted everyone to go into their local bookstore and buy the book. Yet he didn’t restrict the sales of the book on those online bookselling websites; so really his attempt to get people into bookstores failed. Don’t go into this novel expecting pulp, this is a coming of age story, with a dash of attempt at the pulp genre.


11/22/63 by Stephen King

Posted November 21, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Science Fiction / 5 Comments

11/22/63 by Stephen KingTitle: 11/22/63 (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen King
Published: Scribner, 2011
Pages: 849
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Jake is a recently divorced high school teacher who finds himself time traveling to 1958. Fascinated by the chance to live his life in what feels like a much simpler time without mobile phones and the internet, Jake decides to live a life that transgresses all the normal rules. He makes his home in 1958, gets a job he enjoys, falls in love with the beautiful librarian and tries to live the ultimate American dream. But he is also obsessed with making the world right, most importantly trying to stop a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. But does Jake know just how much the world would change if he stops the Kennedy assassination?

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve not read much by Stephen King before, two books in fact (one of those was On Writing). I went into this book expecting a novel about time travel and the effects of changing the past would have. I also expected some weird plot with supernatural or horror elements but that’s just what I expect from King. What I got was something a lot different; this was more of a “what if?” novel. King explores his own thoughts of alternate history and time travel but he doesn’t really stop with that.

Possibly the most unexpected part of this novel was the character building and living life in the late fifties and sixties. King does an interesting job at telling a story of living in the era but in his own unique way by making the protagonist feel out of his element. The whole idea of living life in a time you are not from and finding someone in that time that could possibly be your soul mate. That was not what I thought King would write about but he did a great job building a memorable story around what he wanted to talk about.

Sure, some people are going to want him to skip all the normal life stuff and get to the time travel and alternate history aspects but I found it enjoyable leading up to it. It’s no Mad Men with the characters and life in the sixties but I did enjoy reading it. It’s a huge book and it could have been trimmed but if I was the one to take out elements I probably would have taken out the time travel. Then the book wouldn’t have worked as well.

I’m very interested in that time period, but I would have either preferred a more Mad Men style novel or more noir style with the war on organised crime and those dodgy back door deals made by the FBI. It did end out being a very interesting novel; it definitely surpassed my expectations and turned into a good read. Stephen King is a good story teller but there was not much to love about the prose and style but overall it was worth the read.