I’ve never been able to read a whole book by Stephen King, although goodness knows I’ve tried. I’d like to say that I really admire the man for doing his job well and attracting a lot of fans and winning a lot of awards; for working with new writers and for an unusual willingness to try new media. He won the National Book Award for lifetime achievement a few years ago and I honor that. He’s also apparently a dedicated family man, living mostly in Maine but with summers in Florida.
So what’s not to like? His books. First I don’t like to be scared and second the writing really doesn’t appeal to me. But because several die-hard fans really encouraged me I tried and tried.
And why did I change my mind with no pressure from anyone and commence to read 11.22.63? Because the idea of time travel appeals to me – I wanted to see what King did with it. And for the most part, I was mostly very pleased with the way King handled it, although I would have done it just a wee bit differently. I understood what he was doing about 1/2 way through but I kept going to see how he would finish it up because I really didn’t know for sure and then it wasn’t what I expected. My idea is better. (Perhaps King’s treatment of time travel and the consequences isn’t new to the whole sci-fi world but it was new to me. Yes, of course I do know of the “butterfly effect.” .) Besides, I also kept going because the Kennedy assassination continues to hold some mild interest and the story is pretty good – after it finally gets started. It’s certainly suspense laden.
Jake Epping is a newly divorced school teacher living in Maine in 2011. Al, the local greasy-spoon owner shows him a “rabbit hole” to 1958 where every time Al goes back in time it resets. Epping understands that he is not allowed to change anything but that even his mere presence there will change things to some extent. That’s why the reset. But Jack goes, and he goes again. And for way too much of the book he “practices” a few changes to try to help people in 2011.
But then Al asks him to change something big by preventing the assassination of John Kennedy – well that’s quite a change to history itself, and a whole lot of other things get changed on this 5 or 6 year trip to “Ago.” Because he always lands in the same spot in 1958 so to get to 1963 he has to stay several years.
Suspension of disbelief is not hard because of the fantastical premise – time travel. If you can buy into that the rest is reasonable. King’s research and intelligence is evident although some historical things have been changed to suit the story. King is a bit hard on the state of Texas but I think what he says was generally true back in 1963.
The book is too long (there’s a big chunk in the early part which is long and boring – it has a point, though, so… ). King tries his old tricks of horror and not very effectively, imo, (at least I was never scared!) although the mechanism is kind of interesting. The love story is very sweetly done in spite of the book getting a well-deserved nod for the “Bad Sex Award.” And it is a page-turner, kept me involved for all those long 30 hours in 3 days. I’ll likely never read another King book but at least I made it through this one and actually, overall, I thought it quite the romp.