Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

“Photos soon emerged: heads on spikes outside of rides, corpses floating in detention cells, and viscera decaying in the humid Florida sun. FantasticLand, where ‘Fun is Guaranteed!’, was covered in blood,” (Bockoven 2).

Welcome to FantasticLand, promising visitors that “Fun is Guaranteed!” since the 1970s. But when the deadly Hurricane Sadie destroys the Florida coast, a group of mostly young employees agree to stay behind to make sure the park isn’t looted and are promised to be paid to do so. When rescue crews arrive for the employees five weeks later, they find a hellish site: heads on spikes, bodies lined up in a row, and the employees themselves separated into different factions and waring against each other. None of the employees had their phones with them, a FantasticLand policy, and one reporter takes it upon himself to interview some of the survivors and try to piece together what happened at FantasticLand, and how a group of young adults could resort to violence against one another so quickly.

I’ve long been a fan of epistolary books, and when my friend recommended FantasticLand with rave reviews AND let me borrow their copy, well. Let’s just say the pressure was on, and I hoped I enjoyed it. I had read some reviews ahead of time talking about how gory it was, a type of horror I’m generally not a fan of (though I’ve been surprised to find some good gory reads). So I was intrigued, nervous, and curious to see what FantasticLand had in store.

Overall, I really enjoyed FantasticLand. I think using the angle of a fictional reporter writing a book about the incident through survivor interviews was very interesting, and while much of the book felt real I think this book could have really hit home if Bockoven had made a fictional version of himself as the interviewer a la Max Brooks, but the fictional interviewer angle still worked. I’ve been watching Yellowjackets recently and this book definitely fit the “what people will do to survive in a disaster scenario” genre and hitting big Lord of the Flies vibes. the difference of course being how quickly this group of young adults resorts to violence, almost immediately, despite having enough supplies to have survived the five weeks it took to be rescued.

I think Bockoven paced it well, and I liked that each interviewee had their own defined voice. It was interesting hearing from one person only to see them mentioned and talked about in a completely different light by another character and trying to piece together the truth from varying accounts of the same incident. Since none of the events that took place at FantasticLand were recorded, it’s up to the testimonies of the survivors to tell the truth, and people aren’t always the most truthful. Some of the interviews are very consistent with their information only for a person in a different area of the park to contradict it, and then another character reveals a piece of information not stated by anyone but (who, for reasons, I believe more than others) that no one else had. It’s a great question of truth, complicity, and how some secrets die with us.

I thought the book was very well-paced and that Bockoven did a very good job distinguishing each area of the park, giving each area its own sort of terror as each interviewee described or tried to defend their actions. I’m absolutely OBSESSED with the mysterious Warthogs, that chapter was so eerie!


The lack of and dependence on technology is the biggest theme of the book, and a proposed theory about why such violence took place in such a short amount of time. The fictional journalist proposes that since these young adults grew up surrounded by and logged in to technology, they didn’t know what to do or how to entertain themselves without it. This is further emphasized through some interviewees who talk about how they wished they’d had their phones to be able to record certain events, others explaining how employees were told it was important to garner views and hits on social media and were rewarded for how much themselves or their section received, to a rescue member who recorded the rescue and uploaded it with no remorse for the money he received from it. There’s some good commentary here, but sometimes it feels a bit more “technology is ruining our lives” and less “we have become codependent on technology,” and that the talk of social media and technology is inconsistent.  A little more consistency and examples of how these young adults were online and using social media instead of just saying they were dependent on may have made Bockoven’s point stronger.


FantasticLand is an excellent novel for lovers of epistolary fiction and theme park horrors like classic Creepy Pasta. It’s unique and I honestly can’t think of many books like it in this genre, so if you’re looking for a unique sort of horror, then get ready for the ride of a lifetime!

39971990Publication: October 11 2016
Publisher: Skyhorse
Pages: 304 pages (Paperback)
Source: Friend (Thanks Andrea!)
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Epistolary
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.75

Since the 1970s, FantasticLand has been the theme park where “Fun is Guaranteed!” But when a hurricane ravages the Florida coast and isolates the park, the employees find it anything but fun. Five weeks later, the authorities who rescue the survivors encounter a scene of horror. Photos soon emerge online of heads on spikes outside of rides and viscera and human bones littering the gift shops, breaking records for hits, views, likes, clicks, and shares. How could a group of survivors, mostly teenagers, commit such terrible acts?
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.

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