Fantasticland | Mike Bockoven | Book Review

Haha… Wow… Just, wow.

If that could be my entire review I would let it stay that way, but I think I owe you guys more than that.

Every summer I am ecstatic to go to the local theme park in Pittsburgh. Although I have been there a hundred times and I am nearing 30 years of age, I still feel the same excitement when I walk into the park as I did when I was a small child. 

All of the memories I have with my family and friends at Kennywood will always be so special to me. Each year when we return there are only more great memories that are created. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I have never had a bad time at a theme park.

Unfortunately,  I can’t say the same thing for the characters in our featured novel today, Fantasticland.


Since the 1970’s, Fantasticland has been the go-to theme park for the Florida coast. At least, that was the case until a massive hurricane ripped through and left nothing but destruction in its wake. But because Fantasticland was built so close to the ocean it has always been prepared for a disaster such as this one.

While the park itself may have suffered some damage from the hurricane, the 300 Fantasticland employees were able to utilize the tunnel system, food, and supplies for the first time since the park was built.

Unfortunately, because they seemed so well prepared, the National Guard and Red Cross bumped Fantasticland to the bottom of their urgency list. Five weeks later, when help finally arrived, they were met with a gruesome scene: heads on sticks, bodies hanging from lamp posts, and bones littering the gift shops.

Cut off from the world and without technology for the first time in most of their lives, the employees had formed rival tribes who fought for food, water, safety, dominance, and flesh.

Why were our survivors, mostly teenagers, forced to commit such violent crimes against one another? Don’t worry, the kids themselves will tell you all about it in their own words during their ghastly accounts of the tragedy at Fantasticland.

The Ups and Downs at Fantasticland

(No spoilers!)

I listened to this book on Audible, and I must start by saying it probably would’ve been far better had I read a physical copy. I’ll spare you the horrible details of the audio book performances.

With that being said, the book itself was absolutely wild. 

The story is told by a series of interviews with surviving Fantasticland employees. This was a fresh and fun way to piece everything together! You get to know so many different characters this way and they present you with so many different views on each major event that took place.

Some characters you connect with, others are less likable, but each one has their own version of the story to tell. You start to relate to one tribe over another, based on the stories, and at the very least it has you thinking about what you would’ve done in a situation like this.

Each interview helps to paint a clearer and more graphic picture, each one taking you closer and closer to understanding how 100 of the 300 kids were mangled and murdered.

Actually, the novel is filled with so many detailed, graphic, and violent first hand accounts that it is nearly overwhelming. I’d dare to say that the gore it is the majority of the story itself. I mean, to be fair, the whole book is literally just a series interviews piecing together the murders of 100 people and how/why our survivors made it out alive.

Some stories of the escalating panic and violence were very entertaining, and this book did really keep me on the edge of my seat, but at times I felt like this novel was the equivalent to a torture-porn horror movie. Trust me, while I do enjoy those films from time to time, when it comes to my novels I suppose I prefer more creative and stimulating type of story telling.

This book reminded me of a modern day combination of Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies- both of which I enjoyed more than this, however.

If all of this sounds fun to you, I highly recommend it. I also recommend not going into it too seriously or looking for any real twists or deep thoughts. And honestly, sometimes a book like that is just what you need!

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Have you read Fantasticland?

What tribe would you have been in? (Please don’t say the Pirates!)

I want to hear what you thought!


2 responses to “Fantasticland | Mike Bockoven | Book Review”

  1. I read (listened to it! I’ve been dying to discuss it with someone who’s read it as well because I’m oddly fascinated with it. I’m curious to know whether the author intended it to appeal to the masses or if he were writing more for a cult readership. Either way, I’m glad I discovered it and continued to listen even after being slightly turned off by the initial narration.
    (Sidenote- I wouldn’t claim any genre as a favorite, I listen to an expansive variety of books . On Audible, I tend towards British narrators, which has led to a steady streak of suspense/thriller types.)
    I found the interviews to be intentionally hyperbolic and I think it was fitting for the setting of a 70s theme park. The characters were all less than likeable; there wasn’t a single one who drew me in to root for him. To me, the lack of character development could be seen as a reflection of society as we are consumed by social media and slowly sinking into a two dimensional world of surface level relationships based on our superficial self portrayals. It’s interesting to think what an entire device-addicted generation of 20 something


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