4 stars - Highly recommended to fans of simple, straight forward stories without any of the funny stuff
Publisher: Open Road Media
Releases: October 2013
With J Robert Lennon's writing, past experience tells you to prepare for the unexpected. Having read both Castle and Familiar, I've become accustomed to his unusual twists and turns, and read HAPPYLAND fully anticipating more of the same.
Will the dolls turn out to be demonic? Will Happy Masters end up slipping into doll-obsessed madness? Will the townsfolk all be turned into dolls?
Amazingly, and a little upsettingly, nothing of the sort happens. HAPPYLAND simply tells the story of a rich, egotistical toy mogul who has designs on the quiet little town of Equinox. Moving in and buying out everything and everyone she can, Happy quickly pisses off the townspeople as she razes their regular stomping grounds and begins to build her Happyland empire.
Lennon's narrative attacks the story line from third person which allows us to see this hostile takeover from multiple perspectives - those who are infatuated with Happy and her toy company (Happy Girl Inc), those who prefer the town to be left alone, and even from Happy's deluded point of view.
As I made my way through the book, I started to see it as a cautionary tale about the dangerous and powerful combination of money, ego, and imagination. It's that I'll-run-you-over-so-you-better-get-out-the-way complex, that I'll-use-you-and-abuse-you-and-watch-you-crumble-and-fall mentality, that inexhaustible desire to use people as ... wait for it... puppets to get what you need, that fuels the fantastical within this novel.
It also demonstrates the sad-but-true cut throat world we live in where the sneaky and the dishonest always seem to thrive while the honest and amiable fight to survive. Even at her worst, Happy made out a million times better than any of the townspeople ever did. Even when the all evil, manipulable things she did caught up with her, even then, she walked away unscathed - a little more worn, a little more wise, but completely and absolutely unscathed.
Money, the things that drives us all mad. Mad with the desire to have it. Mad with depression and desperation when we can't get it or had it and lost it. Mad with power when we finally get it.
And while I found this a perfectly enjoyable read, I wouldn't have blinked twice at a little demonic doll action...