Beach Reading and the Macabre (a tiny review on NOS-4R2 and Joyland)

Good summer reading isn’t always easy to find.

I like spending time at the bright, sunny beach with the macabre, dark, sinister horror. Of course that’s not always what I read at the beach because sinister horror is often hard to find but this was a good year.

This year I’ve spent my sunny days (not always on the beach but sometimes in my own wonderful backyard surrounded by an apple tree and children’s laughter) with two wonderful and sometimes macabre fellows.

Mr. Stephen King and Mr. Joe Hill.

I started reading NOS-4R21 by Joe Hill, that brick of a novel. But it drew me right in. The fate of little Victoria McQueen was interesting from page one and when Mr. Charlie Manx was added to the mix and his frightening Christmasland I was entirely hooked.

It is an epic and utterly modern novel. The vision of Christmasland is dark and fantastic and I envy Mr. Hill the ability to take something jolly and beautiful and make something so entirely dark and interesting out of it. And I am in awe of the fact that he didn’t include Mr. Ho-Ho-Ho in the little land of horrors because that would almost surely have ruined the brilliance of the place.

Christmasland is not the setting of this novel however but its dark undertone. The life of Victoria McQueen is. She is a peculiar little girl and grows up to be a peculiar adult. She struggles with her gift/curse and it makes her life a modern hell.

The vehicles were also a great addition. Manx’s old Wraith and Victoria’s bikes give magic to the story and not just to the supernatural elements but to the setting as well. It’s an “on the road” novel, a coming-of-age story.

And if you love vampires (not in the twinkle-twinkle-little-star way) you are bound to love this story about Vic and her horrors.

What really chisels this novel together are the characters however. The characters and their flaws kind of cast a realistic hue over the whole macabre story and it gives it the realistic tone a novel like this requires. The characters seem real in their struggle with real plagues as much as the supernatural horror that haunts them.

Mr. King released a short novel called Joyland this summer and I was first in line to buy the book, in fact I searched high and low for it before finding it in my favorite (at least local) bookshop, Hamrelius bokhandel. They always have what you need.

Joyland is already a King Classic if you ask me2. It’s not a horror story per se but another coming-of-age story. It is set in an amusement park during 1973 (a great year, huh?) and it follows young Devin Jones in his work at the park.

Who was the clever killer in the haunted house? It isn’t the crime itself or the solution of it that is interesting about the book but the setting and the characters and the general atmosphere in the book. The sorrow and the happiness, the love and the heartache is at the core and I guess that’s just what made it a very satisfying beach reading.  I’m pretty sure a good director can make this into another Stand By Me movie.

And I can’t wait for September 24th and Doctor Sleep3!

1 Great Title but call me stupid for not realizing what it meant until quite a few pages into the novel!
2 It may not have the best first line ever written but it’s still a solid classic.
It was hard to find something good to read after these two great gentlemen. I settled upon Wool by Hugh Howey and hope he delivers.

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