Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stephen King's 11/22/63

I hadn't read a Stephen King book for years, maybe even twenty. I received his latest novel 11/22/63 as a gift. It's very long, about 850 pages, and absorbing. Its central theme is the quest of a man to save John F. Kennedy. He has a way of going back in time to late 1958 (and only that time, though he can do it over and over, resetting each trip) and he embarks on a complicated plan to kill Lee Harvey Oswald.

At first I was afraid it would be a version of Back to the Future. There's a little of that--he makes money by betting on sports--but it's minimal. The main character knows he is creating a butterfly effect, but despite warnings from the person who first found the time portal, he starts getting close to people and changing things. He also find that the past doesn't want to be changed so roadblocks keep popping up at him. The changes he does cause--with good intentions--don't tend to have good effects. He falls in love and that screws things up even more.

I won't spoil anything, but his quest to follow Oswald in Fort Worth and Dallas is a great story, including an effort to make sure he is acting alone before trying to kill him (after all, murdering him would be useless if someone else was trying to kill JFK).

The book does not wallow in nostalgia, and paints the late 1950s and early 1960s in what seems a realistic light. There is still violence and hatred, and people smoke constantly (I was reminded of this not long ago when I toured an old Air Force One, with ash trays everywhere).

Anytime a book is long, it will get reviews saying it needed editing down. This novel, like George R. R. Martin has put it for his own books, is immersive. King's afterword describes the research that went into making it as historically accurate as possible, while also admitting some creative liberties. You live the world, or really worlds, and people in the book. I found it to be a great ride.


Vicente Duque 5:13 PM  

People that lived through the fifties and sixties will find this novel to be spellbinding.

In any case, this is not an idle reading, because we can learn a lot about the American ( or Texan ) past and customs that are gone.


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