Presented as a fact-finding investigation and a series of first-person interviews, FantasticLand pieces together the grisly series of events. Park policy was that the mostly college-aged employees surrender their electronic devices to preserve the authenticity of the FantasticLand experience. Cut off from the world and left on their own, the teenagers soon form rival tribes who viciously compete for food, medicine, social dominance, and even human flesh. This new social network divides the ravaged dreamland into territories ruled by the Pirates, the ShopGirls, the Freaks, and the Mole People. If meticulously curated online personas can replace private identities, what takes over when those constructs are lost?
FantasticLand is a modern take on Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale that probes the consequences of a social civilization built online.
I haven’t read anything in the horror genre that doesn’t have the name Stephen King on it in years. I’m a romance reviewer. I generally stay in my nice, comfy, and-they-lived-happily-ever-after reading rut, and I like it there. But recently, the Design Dude here at Knockin’ Books challenged me to read some post-apocalypse fiction, and I loved it so much that when this book came along, my mind was nice and open to new genres--and because I loved the blurb, I decided to give it a read. And man, I’m really glad I did.
I’ll be honest. I was afraid that the storytelling style—the first-person interviews instead of in-the-moment action—would be off-putting, that it would pull me out of the story and make me feel like just an observer rather than a part of the world. That was sooooo not the case. The delivery of the accounts as told by those who’d survived the FantasticLand siege/tragedy/disaster (whatever you want to call it) was all the more chilling in its brutal honesty and matter of fact style. The various interviews were pieced together masterfully.
I think the part of this story that makes it so horrifying is that you can see it actually happening. Anyone who has been around children stuck at home on snow days and trapped in the house for any length of time has seen how quickly moods (and behavior) can deteriorate. Imagine that scenario, then multiply it by a million and you’ve got FantasticLand. Bored, scared, isolated teenagers—including at least one true sociopath—with no direction or real adult guidance? I’m sorry to say that the way this story played out seems entirely plausible to me. And that alone will probably keep me from going to Disney World, like, ever. I probably won’t go anywhere during hurricane season, come to think of it.
So why not 5 stars instead of 4.5? Honestly? There was nothing I’d change about this book, but I’m very stingy with my 5 star ratings. Those are generally reserved for Stephen King. (Call us, Stephen! We love you!)
Long-story-short: this is a fantastic (heh? See what I did there?) and horrifying story that I HIGHLY recommend to all readers, not just fans of the horror genre.
Full disclosure: a free copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Design Dude cover comments
The main image of a grungy ferris wheel photo was a spot on choice in terms of subject matter and treatment but the bright sunlight behind the photo was a bit odd when the designer was obviously going for a dark, scary feel. Think it might have been worth exploring some other options to begin the Photoshop work on this one. I think there was also a missed opportunity with the title typography as well. The simple grungy font is fine but I'd have liked to see the designer take the creative a step further and look for some 3D lighted sign lettering that he/she could have grunged up in Photoshop perhaps with a few of the letters hanging askew. The color would have also provided some visual pop while also contributing to the overall scary and desolate emotional feeling. Overall, this cover isn't a bad effort but there was definitely an opportunity to push it to a higher level.
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