11.22.63 by Stephen King

11.22.63What a book to start the year.  I loved it.  I was particularly intrigued by the original concept of the novel – travelling back in time to try and stop John F. Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas on 22nd November 1963 – and I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, I would go as far as saying ‘11.22.63’ was probably the most enjoyable and imaginative book I’ve read for a very very long time.

As this is King’s first proper time travel novel, ‘11.22.63’ isn’t one of his more typical horror books but it is still a page-turning thriller.  Jake Epping, a teacher in Maine in 2011, is told by Al Templeton, a restaurant owner, that the storeroom of his diner is a portal to 1958.  Dying of cancer and unable to save Kennedy himself, Al entrusts Jake with the task.  Jake begins his new life as George Amberson, who first tries to save the family of his student, Harry Dunning, and later gets a job as a high school teacher where he meets and falls in love with Sadie, the librarian.  Throughout, Jake continues to track the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald when he returns from the Soviet Union, leading up to the fateful day in November 1963 (King wisely chooses to ignore any alternative conspiracy theories in this version of events).  This is a very sketchy summary of a 740 page book but I don’t really want to give anything else away!

It might at first seem unnecessary for King to send his characters back in time over five years before the real event in question and those expecting the book to be mostly about Kennedy and his assassination will probably be frustrated by the very slow beginning.  However, it eventually becomes clear that there are some very good reasons for the gradual build-up.  The butterfly effect, where even relatively small changes to the past can have far-reaching consequences, is brilliantly explored and exploited as a plot device and is the factor that really sustains the whole book which is carried along by excellent story-telling, great characters and vivid descriptions of the USA in the 1950s and 1960s. I particularly loved how King makes even the most mind-bending and far-fetched aspects of time travel seem totally believable.  ‘11.22.63’ is an ambitious novel but never oversteps the mark.

I read King’s first published novel, ‘Carrie‘, last summer and although horror as a genre isn’t really my thing, I did quite enjoy it.  Having now read one of his earliest and one of his most recent works, I will hopefully be filling in the gaps and exploring more of his other novels later this year.

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “11.22.63 by Stephen King

  1. I loved it, too, and also blogged about it. Oddly enough, I never found it slow, and I’m at zero in the patience department. I’m only sorry that King didn’t make Sadie and the folks in Jodie, Texas the subjects of their own book. The ending made me cry—it was beautifully written.

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  2. I bought this novel for my husband for Christmas. He’s French and loves King’s work. He just finished reading a bargain (1€) used hard cover, It in French, he bought while we were on holiday checking out the village of old books in southern France. It was colossal in size but he just read a little bit every night and really enjoyed it. From this review I can tell he’s going to love this one too. Thanks for the review!

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  3. Okay, sold! It’ll be my first King. . . I was just nervous because I don’t care much for horror and it’s A LOT of pages!

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  4. I suppose JFK has replaced Lincoln as the assassination we all want to go back in time and avoid but let’s face it, it’s just another clichéd plot for pop writers who have nothing original to say.

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  5. Excellent review, and I agree. One of King’s best. It has a lot of heart and a lot of intrigue.

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  6. I never read or showed any interest in Stephen King but when this novel came out I thought about giving him a try. Not that I did though, not even taking into account how much I like JFK and the cultural repercussion he and his tragic dead had.

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  7. I’ve not read this one yet, but will put it on my list. After reading King’s “On Writing,” I have a much deeper appreciation for his fiction and work ethic. Give it a try, you wont be disappointed, even if you are not particularly interesting in writing…and, it’s not horror.

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  8. I have that one in my queue to read. Looking forward to it even more so now.

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  9. You’ve sold me! A few people have suggested it to me but I have kind of lumped all King books into the ‘horror’ genre and thought it wasn’t for me but I think I’ve changed my mind now.

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  10. Arianne Z.

    I should really stop reading posts like this. I find my own book list growing in an alarming rate.. So little time so much books to read. 😀 Now I’m not just inclined to read another King book, I also want to write about him too.

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  11. I read about half of this book and should probably just rent it from the library again and finish it; however, I found that it kind of began to drag on towards the middle. This was the first King book I ever started to read – there’s no doubt he is a fabulous writer, I just got a little bored! Maybe I’ll finish it this year 🙂

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  12. Pingback: Audiobook Review: 11/22/63 « The Indiscriminate Critic

  13. I have been wanting to read this for a while, I’ll look for it in the library next time I go.

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  14. 11/22/63 is at the top of my “to read” list!

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  15. I haven’t read this yet but you made it sound very exciting. I’ve added it to my to get list. I loved Carrie but my favourite King novels are probably The Stand and It although The Shining and Misery are very good as well.

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  16. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve read a lot of King, but tend to shy away from his newer stuff, as it’s never really well-received. ‘Cell’ and ‘Lisey’s Story’ are the latest King I’ve read and they were pretty ‘eh’. This and ‘Under the Dome’ sound really interesting to me, though. The fact that you’ve rated this so highly has bumped it up a notch.

    If you want to check out some of King’s ‘middle’ works (as in, published in the middle of his career), I’d definitely recommend ‘Misery’ and three of the books he published as Richard Bachman, ‘Thinner’, ‘The Running Man’ and ‘The Long Walk’.

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  17. Pingback: Audiobook Review: 11/22/63 | The Indiscriminate Critic

  18. PaulSmuts

    Busy reading this book at the moment. Loving it so far!

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  19. Pingback: The 2013 End of Year Book Survey | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  20. I loved the book. I got my mom who is an avid reader and thinks JFK was the best thing to happen in America besides “dancing with the stars”. I love her unintentional hilarity. I was surprised that she wasn’t offended with the end. Also my dad who doesn’t read a ton couldn’t put the book down.

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  21. Pingback: Misery by Stephen King | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

  22. Pingback: Four More Books I’ve Read This Summer | A Little Blog of Books

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