11/22/63, by Stephen King

>> Thursday, October 25, 2012

TITLE: 11/22/63
AUTHOR: Stephen King

PAGES: 880

SETTING: Present day and 1950s and 60s US
TYPE: Time Travel

Dallas, 11/22/63: Three shots ring out.

President John F. Kennedy is dead.

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away... but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jolie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten... and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.
We've been meaning to read this for months at my book club, but had to wait until the paperback came out. Well, now that it has, we made it our September read.

High school teacher Jake Epping's life is turned upside down when his friend Al tells him his secret. Al has discovered that there's a "rabbit hole" at the back of his diner from which he can travel back and forth to the past. A very specific point in the past, a particular day in 1958.

Al's been doing it for years and is pretty confident he's figured out how it works. You always go back to the same moment in time, and no matter how long you spend in the past, you are gone for only 2 minutes in the present. You can change things in the past, but it's difficult to do, as the past is resistant to change. And no matter what you change in the past, it's all reset if you come back to the present and then go back to the past again.

Al has a plan to change something and then not reset events, though. A BIG something. He has decided that if he could stop the JFK assassination, then all sorts of bad events could be prevented, like the Vietnam war. The problem is, even though for every visit you're gone for only 2 minutes in the present, your body ages normally as time goes by in the past. Al has developed cancer, and it's terminal. He doesn't have enough time left in his body to wait the 5 years till November 1963. But his friend Jake does.

I was a little bit intimidated by the size of this monster. At 880 pages, it looked massive even on my kindle! Books this big can be a little bit slow to get going, but not this one. As soon as I opened it, it started zipping right along. King is a fantastic storyteller, and it shows.

On the whole, I enjoyed this well enough, but didn't love it. The story itself is good, but I thought the characterisation didn't live up to it. The characters felt pretty cliched and two-dimensional (especially the love interest), and I didn't particularly care about them.

Also, fantastic storyteller or not, King needs an editor who can stand up to him. This was very episodic, and I thought the book as a whole suffered for it. First, Jake decides to test how this thing works and spends a couple of months in 1958 Maine, where he intends to prevent a tragic event in an acquaintance's past. That takes a couple of hundred pages, and it's a pretty full story in its own right. Then he moves to Texas, and moves to a small town, where he teaches in the high school and falls in love. Then the whole JFK plot kicks in properly. I think it could potentially work ok as a TV miniseries (and I wouldn't be shocked if I heard this might be happening), but as a full book it felt a bit wrong.

Also, even though it was so fast-paced, the length itself ended up being a bit of a drawback. Things that wouldn't have bothered me in a shorter book happened so many times that they started to become annoying. Like, for instance, the heavy foreshadowing King uses as a device. At first it works really well, but after the 50th time we get a "Little did I know that..." type thing, I wanted to scream. Also, I'm not sure if this makes sense, but, although I wasn't bored by the book, I ended up feeling bored of it. It felt like I'd been reading it for such a long time that I couldn't wait to move on to something different.

So, not a complete success, but I'm not sorry I read it.



Post a Comment

Blog template by simplyfabulousbloggertemplates.com

Back to TOP