Monday, March 26, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Now the King of Time Travel




 

 

Having just emerged from 1963, courtesy of Stephen King’s latest novel 11/22/63, I am thrilled to report it was a fabulous trip and well worth the ticket price.  King slips us very convincingly through the ‘rabbit hole’, a time slip doorway at the back of the local burger diner owned by Al Templeton.
This portal always lands the traveller back in Lisbon Falls, September 9, 1958, at 11:58 am.  No matter how long the traveller stays in the past, only two minutes elapses in the present.  Any changes made during the visit, affect the future.  All the changes of the altered future are reset, the next time someone re-enters the past. 
Al has travelled back to 1958 hundreds of times and, on the last visit, he decides he will stay until 1963 in order to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  During this attempt, he develops terminal cancer and returns to the future to enlist the help of the local English teacher, Jake Epping, whom he figures is young enough to survive the five years he will have to wait for the fateful day.
After a short and fascinating reconnaissance into 1958, Jake agrees to Al’s scheme to save Kennedy, not only because he believes the world will be a better place should Kennedy live but, also, to avert the murder of a student’s family.  Jake enters the past, armed with Al’s research notes, sporting statistics in order to win living expenses, and a naive plan.
But the past is “obdurate”—it doesn’t want to be changed—and is a character in itself as it seemingly sets out to thwart him at every turn.  Over almost 850 pages, Jake battles the power of the past, betting thugs, murderers, and a nosy education administrator, as he corrects wrongs and surveils Lee Harvey Oswald and his family.
King and his long time researcher, Russ Dorr, read enormous quantities of historical documents and visited Dallas several times in order to accurately recreate the historical era leading up to the Kennedy assassination.  The details, embodied in minutia that extend from the 1958 price of a pint of root beer (10 cents) or a haircut (40 cents) down to the local vernacular and music bring to life this time.  King has said that he loves this era and you feel that in his finely imagined world.
  The idea for the book came to King in 1971 just before the release of ‘Carrie’ but he said, at the time, it was too soon after the assassination with the wounds too deep, plus he didn’t feel he possessed the talent to make it work.  Even now, after some fifty books, he said, "I've never tried to write anything like this before.  It was really strange at first, like breaking in a new pair of shoes."  
In describing 11/22/63 as an historical novel with a sci-fi twist, King commented, "This might be a book where we really have a chance to get an audience who's not my ordinary audience.”  But there is more to this book than time travelling and history.  Alongside the dramatic scenery there is an element not often found in a King novel.  There is romance. 
In his ‘past world’ life, Jake meets Sadie Dunhill, a school librarian, with whom he begins a love affair.  It’s this relationship, and all the cross time difficulties it endures as the Assassination day draws closer, that gives the story its true depth.  In the last few pages as King ties up the story threads, it is this love affair that delivers the book’s poignant and satisfying end.
Such a large book becomes a small part of your life whilst reading, and as I closed the coverfor the last time, I wished fervently that we could go down that time ‘rabbit hole’ just one more time.  Stephen King waited thirty years until, in his own words, his talent caught up with his vision of time travel.  It was worth the wait, Mr King.  11/22/63 is a masterpiece of storytelling and imagination and will be read and enjoyed into the distant future, and that includes all multiple time line threads.
            To learn more about this book and how to purchase it Click here.