11.22.63 – Stephen King

In 2011, Jake Epping, an English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, sets out on an insane – and insanely possible – mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

Leaving behind a world of computers and mobile phones, he goes back in time to a time of big American cars and diners, of Lindy Hopping, the sound of Elvis and the taste of root beer,

In this haunting world Jake falls in love with Sadie, a beautiful high school librarian.  And, as the ominous date of 11.22.63 approaches, he encounters a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald.

This sizeable novel from the wordy wordsmith himself, Mr King has so much of everything in it.  The inexactness of that statement is accurate as the number of little details is vast, and as such I read this book with a huge amount of appreciation.

I avoided this book for a long time because, for me a time travel story and King just didn’t seem to gel together in my mind but once I started reading, I thought it worked really well.  The element of ‘how would I exploit the past if I could time travel’ is explored = and takes the focus off of the main plot, which itself flows logically and languidly (a good thing) according to the rules set out.

When all else fails, give up and go to the library

Jake is often just as focussed on the smaller picture as much as his larger mission, and it is fascinating to get caught up in, as does he. There is the usual whole heap of nostalgia which the author always excels at, allowing the reader to feel like they miss that time and place, despite many not having lived through it.  There is a brief cameo from some of the characters of IT, as well as a couple of Dark Tower references, which is pleasing to those knowledgeable but won’t make any difference to those not familiar with the particular works.

The clarity of place and side characters really brings authenticity to the story and the time.  In fact the side characters really are interesting and often relegate the main plot into the background for a while, where it remains brooding and biding its time.  The mixture of its dark nature crossed with poignancy is finely balanced. When it needs to, the story oozes sinister, the horror here is the real, the actions of humans,  not something ghoulish, but this is also what adds to its poignancy.

Life turns on a dime

As ever with such books, the question of the moral right to kill (previously explored in his earlier work, The Dead Zone), the implications of, and consequences of such actions is examined. What is clear throughout is that consequences have further consequences. Both in fiction and reality, interaction is already a consequential reaction from previous interaction and here (if successful), would the world be better for it?

The ending was a little weak, after the detailed build up it felt somewhat truncated but nevertheless 11.22.63 is worth reading all the way to the end, and for the length of it I finished it quickly. Sometimes the book has less of a focused feel and whilst that may bother some, I am always happy to sink into King’s creations for as long as possible. I loved the world and the journey, and had a thoroughly enjoyable time with it.Save

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28 Replies to “11.22.63 – Stephen King”

  1. King – The 60s – Kennedy, this book has everything going for it but I’ve always held back from reading it. The question for me is whether King has anything new to say about the assassination itself. We still don’t know why they did it, which makes no sense at all to me. Today, the perpetrators of atrocities always want to be on the TV news claiming the ‘credit’ for their actions, but JFK was killed and then the rest is silence. Utterly mystifying (and I don’t believe the Oliver Stone line either).

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    1. I could have sworn I read a review on your blog praising it, which is why I chose to pick this up eventually. Maybe I did it on your blog but in the post Mandela effect universe it makes me wonder what books I now haven’t read which I had…

      There isn’t anything particularly new, he puts his own slant on events but there is nothing really different. I liked the Oliver Stone film but I also enjoy some hilariously questionable YouTube channels on such subjects.

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      1. No, I have never read this one, but maybe, I can go back into the past, write a post, inspireg your post, which inspires King to go back into the past and write the book in the first place, which inspires Lee Harvey Oswald to … {ad infinitum}

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  2. I read King ever so long ago when he first popped on the scene, yet as stopped when his writing began to grow darker, darker. I’m intrigued with this one. How can I resist? An English teacher AND a librarian? Promise me there are no crazed clowns or paranormal teens in prom dresses running around and I will trot down to the library on lunch break.

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    1. It’s a world away from Carrie but has a nice callback to IT but is totally different in tone. I like how his writing has changed over time and his wings have spread. This one will be a welcome return for you to join him in his writings. I am hankering to pick up a new copy of something King and maybe I will go for his younger years to enjoy the contrast.

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  3. Great review, as always, Ste J.

    But like Alastair said, what new thing is King telling us that we don’t know of. As far back as I can remember I have been fascinated with the assassination of JFK and I have read any book I can find on it here in Ghana, which is limited though. And I still have questions. He was killed in the year I was born but my mum told me the whole of Ghana was in great mourning. I don’t buy the lone sniper theory. John Davis’ book, Kennedy, Dynasty and Disaster throws more believable light on the whole misfortune, at least for me. 🙂

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    1. King does rely on the the official version of events mostly but does point out the inconsistencies. It is a good read but won’t add much new, it does evoke the era though and I love books that really allow me to sink into the time and place.

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  4. I loved this book, and admired his ability to bring these side plots and characters together. It definitely balances out Jake’s five year waiting period. I agree with you on the ending, it did seem a little weak.

    It was still a great read though.

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    1. I found the same sort of let down with Revival as well. Luckily the rest of the book was so strong that I can’t be too hard on it for its conclusion.

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  5. How close was I to starting this only yesterday. But I picked up Sleeping Beauties instead. I am not so intrigued for this one now because I may after all not enjoy this as I expect it to be a horror book.

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    1. I think some of King’s best work avoids horror. The Body and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption for instance are both really strong works. Did you ever get around to A Suitable Boy? I made progress yesterday in Manila, managed a good 150 pages, so finally into the last seven hundred now.

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  6. The only book by Stephen Kind I’ve read is his treatise “On Writing.” I enjoyed it. I’ve seen movies based on King novels, but haven’t ventured into that territory. Perhaps I will someday. But I’m not sure it’s going to be this one….

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    1. I enjoyed On Writing as well, hos movies are a mixed bag to say the least. I still need to watch Maximum Overdrive, the film he directed whilst on loads of drugs, always a good idea for a comedy film night!

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  7. I also (and by this time I should perhaps blush to admit it, as time has proved his worth) have not read any Stephen King novels, at all. And I too own a copy of his book “On Writing.” I have seen “The Shawshank Redemption” in movies, though, and I think his strength lies in that sort of work rather than in horror per se. I do have a funny story about him, though, which I may have told you already. When we were looking for a condo, we went to a certain realty agency, and we were all dressed up. The agent was too. Somehow, the subject of dressing for success came up, and the agent said that once, a woman wearing blue jeans and a very casual top came in, long hair hanging down her back, inexpensive sandals on, etc. She said she wanted to buy a condo which by the estimation of the agent involved in the transaction (not ours) was way out of her price range. The agent practically sneered in her face. When she left without making a buy, someone else in the agency made quick to tell her (as their own transaction was done) that the woman was Stephen King’s wife–and on a comparison of clients, well able to buy the whole agency and the city block it sat on, if she wanted to! Funny how people are–it’s worth a Stephen King story of “The Shawshank Redemption” kind.

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    1. If I had a lot of money, I would be the same as Mrs T. King, very casual and proving the important lesson of looks do not define a person. When will some people learn? My favourite King books are the ones that are less about the horror, Different Seasons, and Joyland. There is a version of On Writing, with a really good short story at the end, set in a shopping centre. I’m not sure if the story differs in America though, I am sure I read somewhere that the stories were different, I think it was a competition winner so it makes sense to open it up to different territories.

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  8. It seemed like every time I read one of his books, it got made into a movie. So, I figured I’d read something else that wouldn’t become a movie. Although the premise of this book is very intriguing. It’s an American fairy tale of an idea(l).

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    1. I see your point, watch the adaptation and that leaves more room for other books. They made a series of this and I believe are looking to a second series which King has an idea for but I have paid little attention to that.

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  9. You know, maybe 5 years ago I bought THE STAND because I’ve never read King’s fiction (LOV e his ON WRITING), and still haven’t I love the sound of King and time travel. “The Green Mile” has magical realism so time travel doesn’t feel far-fetched to me in relation to him as a writer.

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    1. I enjoyed The Stand, some very memorable characters there and a really big book, which was the first King book I read. I am always impressed with how he can take an aspect that the reader may think won’t really work and then precedes to prove said reader wrong. He does it every time.

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  10. I ‘read’ this in audio format a while ago and enjoyed it very much, although I agree with you about the slightly disappointing ending. Overall, though, a memorable read. I very much prefer King’s non-horror books.

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    1. The Body was brilliant and the film version Stand By Me, almost equalled it, it is good that he mixes up his genres these days. I agree with you my favourite stories do tend to be those less horror inclined.

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  11. I loved this one too. I seemed a little strange when it wandered off into IT, but I know King likes to do that kind of thing and might as well since he’s written so many books. I loved how it made me think of different possibilities near the end too.

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    1. I liked the callback to IT, I enjoy the crossovers he sometimes drops in. The possibilities of what he writes about really do make the reader speculate and add that more Sci-Fi element to the proceedings.

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