Tuesday, December 13, 2011

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): November 22nd, 1963 was a rapid-fire sequence of indelible moments: Shots ring out; a president slumped over; a race to the Dallas hospital; an announcement, blood still fresh on the First Lady's dress. But what if President John F. Kennedy didn't have to die; if somehow his assassin could have been thwarted? For Maine schoolteacher Jake Epping, those hypothetical what if's become real possibilities when he walks through a portal to the past. Without special skills and still unfamiliar with his new/old surroundings, he struggles to discover a way to change the history he left.
And here's what I thought:   There have been a lot of reviews written of this book, and while I could go on and on about the story, I don't think I will.   As you can see from the summary, the basic idea is this: guy goes back in time to see if he can prevent the Kennedy assasination.

I will admit that there are some Stephen King books that I never liked too much, like Pet Semetary, and, most recently, Full Dark, No Stars.   However, there are King books that I have read over and over again.  I wore out my paperback copies of The Stand, and The Talisman (which he co-wrote with Peter Straub).    His best books, in my opinion, are those where the writing isn't too gory, but the psychological stuff is what really gets into your head and is scary.

In this book, the scary idea is time.  What happens if you go back?  Can you change one small thing and have it make a difference?  What about the butterfly effect?   

I loved how King approached the whole thing; not just the going back in time thing, but what that would actually mean if you were to do it.   Example: Jake goes back to the late 1950s when he begins, so he needs to make sure he has the right money (no 2011 nickels or dimes). There's a great little part where he tries to make a phone call and accidentally puts in the wrong-era coin.  He needs to remember not to talk about current events, or current songs.  He has to be aware of what people are wearing.    These are the kinds of details that really make the story interesting for me --- all the things that Jake needs to keep straight, just from the beginning.        

The part about Kennedy and Oswald is interesting, but I admit that I got more pulled in to Jake's story about the town he moves to, and the high school he teaches at, and Sadie, the woman he falls in love with.   Typical for King, we have a flawed hero, an ordinary man who can perhaps do something extraordinary, or whose very being has a larger purpose.   I like that, and I think it makes for an interesting story.

The other thing I found really thought-provoking in this book was the idea of going back in time, yet with the knowledge you have in your current time.   Admittedly, I have always found it a horrifying idea to imagine waking up one morning and being back in high school, but with all the knowledge I have now.   I mean, it's easy to think of things you might change --- I'd take better care of myself, and I wouldn't let the mean people get me down.  But here's the thing: what if I made some kind of small change, and changed my future around completely?  I don't know if I'd like that.

I found this a thought-provoking story, and good book by an author I enjoy.  Size-wise, I think this could have been trimmed a bit without too much repercussion, but I found I was spending a lot of time reading and enjoying.   And now you can see why I haven't posted a review lately --- because I've been reading this 842 page book! 
First sentences: I have never been what you'd call a crying man.  My ex-wife said that my "nonexistent emotional gradient" was the main reason she was leaving me (as if the guy she met in her AA meetings was beside the point).

Thoughts on the cover: Eye-catching, especially if you look at the back cover, which has a modified newspaper headline.    Actually, the size of this book is what makes it eye-catching (I found myself doing arm exercises with it in between reading it)


Tammy said...

Holy crap! 842 pages! I bet you have arms of steel.
Loved your review. I'm also a fan of Stephen King. But lately the gore has been a little too much for me to take-The Cell. But I think I could get into this one.
Thanks for the heads up.

Lindsay Cummings author said...

good review!! I got this for my dad for christmas, so I'm glad to see something about it!

Here's my review of Incarnate. Stop by and leave your thoughts?!


Jenny Q said...

This may be the first King that I've wanted to read in a long time! Thanks for the review. I had no idea it was such a long book.

Espana said...

This is an engaging time travel thriller in which Stephen King makes a strong case that Oswald worked alone, a key element in the plot for conspiracy believer Jake to accept. The story line is action-packed with the changes in history such as cigarette smoking attitudes cleverly devised. Part of the fun is debating the possibility of the changes being reasonable as Mr. King provides an entertaining tale.

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