After many years of promising myself I would do it, I finally took the plunge and read a book by Stephen King. I have avoided King, as horror is not my preferred genre. Apparently King is adept at writing in other genres as well. That said, there is a sense of foreboding and an ominous presence thought out the book. I don’t know if this is a trademark of his style but regardless, he does it exceptionally well.
In one of my least favorite books of all time, The Alchemist, (for which my unflattering review can be found HERE, the author tells us that when you are following your destiny, the universe converges to help you achieve the goal. Stephen Kings take a different and far more enjoyable tack. If you go into the past to try and accomplish your destiny, the past is going to try and seriously F@*! you up. In this story, Jake Epping, a single, 30 something English Teacher, is put on a path to change the history of the world. He is shown a doorway into the past. He can walk though to the same town in 1958. He can spend as much time there as he wishes and bring anything back. Although years may pass while in the past, when he walks back through the door, he has only been gone 2 minutes but has aged the length of time he has been in the past. Follow me so far? The only catch is that if he enters the past a second time, anything he changed is reset. Jake quickly finds himself caught up in a scheme to go back in the past and stop the assassination of JFK. The problem is, the past does not like to be messed with and it does it best to stop from being altered. As Jake goes back in time, he soon realizes he is on a trip of self-discovery and learns who he is by being where he was never meant to be.
Its about the Journey and not the Destination
I had heard that Stephen Kings loves to meander in his stories and that is certainly the case here. The fact is, it takes A LONG TIME to get to 11/22/63 and when he finally does get there, he isn’t there as long as you might expect. This will be a downside for some readers. As for me, I personally enjoyed the journey, the things Jake learned and the people he met along the way. In may ways, this reminded me of the journey undertaken in American Gods minus (most of) the supernatural beings. If you liked Neil Gaiman’s great work, I think you might like this one as well. If you pick this one up, just remember that you will be taking the scenic route.
The Right Notes
This story hit pretty much every right note for me. I found the characters well developed and interesting. The characters were faced with tough decisions and suffered the fallout. The setting of the late 50’s and early 60’s came alive and was as much a character in the story as anyone else. On top of this, King infused the story with a sense of brooding. He wrote the novel in such a way that the past was itself a character. The past had memory and prescience and had the ability to alter itself to serve its purpose and protect its integrity. As the story progressed, you continually had the sense that the past could lash out at any time
A Bit Drawn Out
While it was exceptionally enjoyable, I could not give it a full 5 stars. While I do love a meandering novel, this one was still too long. This one really did not need to be 800+ pages but I guess when you are Stephen King, no is going to stop you. My only other complaint is the initial setup of the story. Given the massive page count, King could have done a much better job of setting up the story and giving us a plausible reason why Jake chose to take on task in the first place. It seemed the author wanted to get to the past and wasn’t too concerned about how he got there.
Can this Book Stand Alone
Yes. This is not part of a series
A great atmospheric novel that is for fans of King and non King fans who love awesome stories. If you are put off by the length, you will be missing out on a great experience. Trust me, you won’t want to mess with the past once you read this one through.
It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.
Scale 1 – Lowest 5 – Highest
Sex – 2
There is a romantic entanglement in the story. Given the setting (1950’s), the situation is kept quiet and the sexual descriptions are rather chaste.
Language – 2
The adult language is generally very mild. Again, it tends to be period appropriate and rarely done in good company.
Violence – 3
There a several rather violent acts in the book and they are moderately graphic. One is against a child and two are against adults. The occurrences are few in light of the size of the novel.