on 10 February 2012
I haven't read a King novel since I was in my 20s (I'm now in my 50s), thinking I'd outgrown him and the horror genre (though I will always remember the final line of "Pet Sematary").
But after reading all the fine year-end blurbs for Best Books of 2011, including in the Financial Times, for "11/22/63," I thought I'd give it a go.
Once begun, I tore through the book in five days (I had limited time to read, otherwise I would never have put it down), and I now lament having finished it. What a roller-coaster ride.
"11/22/63" is both a terrific time-travel tale and well-researched historical fiction, especially fun for those of us who have some memories of the '50s and '60s, even if we were only children. Certainly the juxtaposition between our online-all-the-time era and a simpler age was thought-provoking in itself, but King also reminds that we've come a long way where racism, ignorance and misogyny are concerned.
A hugely entertaining, thoroughly imaginative and emotionally gripping story, full stop.
on 16 July 2012
I have read probably all of SK's novels - some fantastic (like the Dark Tower series and The Talisman) and some more mediocre . I am not a fan of short stories and if you also like an 'epic' tale - this is one for you.
He is back to his old form to my mind - as another reviewer put it, it was like the author gave you a 'handshake and a hug' and you were off an a brilliant adventure. I couldn't put the book down - meant to take it away on holiday but made the mistake of reading the first few pages - now I will have to find something else.
Great story and characters and would make a great movie - if they spend some money on it and don't turn it into a low budget 'made for tv' mini series which never works on SK's books.
A wonderful book with a heart wrenching ending.
Where does the time go? After finishing this book I checked the internet to find out when I first discovered, and fell in love with, the books of Stephen King. The first one I read was Salems Lot, a paperback I bought using a gift voucher I had been given for a present. I was shocked when I realised that this would have happened over thirty five years ago. I loved Salems Lot and I loved the books that followed it - The Shining, The Stand, The Dead Zone and a stunning short story collection called Night Shift. The publication of a new Stephen King book became a red letter day and I would always ensure that I would purchase my copy the same day that it hit the shelves. Over the years though, the standard of Stephen King's books dipped a little. Whilst they were nearly always good, and some were excellent, none ever seemed quite as good as his earlier masterpieces. I assumed that I would never read a Stephen King book that would better The Shining or The Stand. But then I read 11:22:63.
11:22:63 not only marks the return of Stephen King to his brilliant best, but it is also quite possibly his finest ever novel. Everything about it is spot on. The characters are excellent, but this is only as I expected, as I have always thought that characterisation was one of King's greatest strengths. In his latest book the main character is Jake Epping/George Amberson and he is the archetypal Stephen King "ordinary Joe", a man unwittingly carried along a path on which he has to take decisive actions for the ultimate good of the human race. The story, about travelling back in time to change the future, is superb. Only King at his best could make such an implausible plotline as this seem not only plausible, but utterly believable. Occasionally Stephen King has spoilt a very good book by providing us with a weak ending; this is certainly not the case with 11:22:63 because all the strands of the plot are tied up in an extremely satisfying manner. King even gives us an absolutely sublime final page, one which left me with a massive lump in my throat. 11:22:63 is a remarkable book.
Reading 11:22:63 gave me a buzz of excitement reminiscent of the buzz I used to feel when reading a Stephen King book a long time ago. It is almost like I had located a portal that had enabled me to travel thirty five years back in time...
on 14 July 2012
Loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved IT!!!
It's been years since I so enjoyed a book. At over 700 pages King takes us on a wonderful time-travel
journey back to 1958-1963, and in a fine engrossing tale that takes its time, beautifully so, you get
the feeling that you're back there alongside Jake, enjoying the thrills and spills that surely come
It's all so believable, and the tracking of Oswald was mind-numbing, as was the love angle that evolved
throughout, mounting to a terrific conclusion.
What can one say after such a gargantuan success of a book?
I'll tell you what!
Till now I (as well as pretty much everyone else in Time-Travel circles) always considered Jack Finney's
TIME AND AGAIN as the finest Time-Travel book ever written. Even Stephen King mentions in his Afterword
that he considered dedicating 11.22.63 to Finney.
Well, I tell you right now, I reckon 11.22.63 just about clips Finney's book into 2nd place!!!!!!!!!!!!
Read it and believe.
In the last few years it almost seems to have become a tradition that we get a new Stephen King book just before Christmas and the much anticipated 11/22/63 is likely to keep many engaged during the festivities this year. It was certainly a book I found hard to put down and which took priority over such mundane activities as eating and sleeping!
Yet again the author has managed to come up with a completely different scenario to entertain his readers. A time portal is opened which comes out to a time slot in 1958. Once the other side of the portal there is an opportunity to change the course of events so that history is altered, either in a small way or on an international scale. The adventure becomes a mission to prevent the assassination of JFK in 1963 - hence the title of the book. This is somewhat complicated by Jake, the time traveler's, ambition to additionally change other aspects of the past. The question is can the past be changed in a major way like this, or it the tendency for it to fall back into its original shape.
This book works on many levels. Stephen King deals with the 53 year time regression extremely well and we are transported into a world where you could be in a different universe, such have been the social and technological changes subsequently. Then there is the consideration of the Oswald controversy - was he working alone or are the conspiracy theorists right? Most of all this works as a joined up story with believable people who the reader comes to care about and wants to keep reading about.
I am a self confessed Stephen King fan and have read all of his work, but I imagine this fascinating tale will appeal to and be enjoyed by most readers. Highly Recommended!
on 14 November 2012
I have been reading Stephen King novels for around 40 years and have finished nearly all of them. Some of his books have been too violent (for me anyway) with hundreds of gruesome deaths in the first 20 pages. Some (eg Tommyknockers) have had ridiculous story lines. However, at his best, he is the only writer I have come across who can stop me putting the book down, you just have to know what twist is next and very often you simply cannot guess what will happen (probably because, in a lot of cases, apparently neither could he until he wrote the end of the novel !) This is the type of book that I like the best, not too much violence (although some) and a storyline which will have you vividly imagining what it would be like to go back in time with the benefits and disadvantages that would entail. He has not lost any of any skills and if anything his story-telling is perhaps even better now - this one is as good as the excellent recent Duma Key, if not better. Wonderfully written and very gripping. Superb !
Mr Kings “what if/time travel” novel is a wonderful read.
I’m not a fan of “what if” or “time travel” novels by and large as most I have read have been rather disappointing. Mr King has bucked the trend and produced a truly satisfying book that grips and doesn’t let go till the very last page.
By setting the story around the assassination of JFK by Lee Harvey Oswald and the small but distinct possibility that the President could be saved, King has cemented the story in a reality that we the readers can associate with. When our protagonist realises he has stumbled upon this chance he has to make a momentous decision. Is it right to even attempt to change history, the implications could be utterly ruinous for humanity. However is it right to let a great wrong go unchallenged? These philosophical undertones are hinted at but not allowed to infringe or slow down the story. Kings ability to take real and checkable historical events and weave a fantastical and believable story into that history is a testament to his skill as a storyteller and researcher.
Basing the story around the efforts to stop Oswald from being in Dallas on the fateful day, rather than on Kennedy, was rather clever because Oswald was a malcontent, and a nobody, it would have been possible to change his personal history with relative ease. Changing a presidents history would be nigh on impossible. However history doesn’t like being messed with and can fight back when necessary. The battle between history not wanting to be rewritten and our antagonist wanting to do just that is the basis for a riveting read.
22/11/63 is a big book, however it doesn’t feel padded. The story flows nicely from chapter to chapter to its inevitable conclusion.
One of Kings better books of late.
on 13 November 2013
So while I've always been a fan of Stephen King and his ability to tell stories, I've not always been a fan of the stories he's chosen to tell. By his own admission, he trod a lonely road of mediocrity for a while - a road that spawned the likes of Needful Things, Gerald's Game, Lisey's Story, Duma Key and a few others. It's not that these were bad stories - I don't think King could write a bad story if he tried, it's just that they simply weren't up to the electric standard he set in the 70s and 80s.
But this? This is the real deal. To be honest, after getting mired in the 800-odd pages of Under The Dome - a book I only finished out of respect for an author by one of his Constant Readers - I was a little wary of navigating the 734 hardcover pages of 11.22.63. I needn't have worried. This is a crackerjack of a tale, told with an obviously genuine affection for an America that, whilst not without its faults, is as defining of a country as it's possible to get.
As an Englishman, it's almost impossible to fully understand how overwhelmingly important JFK was to the American public at the time of his assassination. Depending on your political hue, he was either the agent of change for American culture or an agent provocateur who represented the greatest risk to the American Way the continent had ever faced. Similarly, his assassination was either the birth or death of hope. And if that wasn't enough, it was caterpaulted to another level of importance by the questions, and subsequent theories, about Oswald's role in the killing.
A great many Americans believe that, had he survived, the world would now be a better place. In simple terms, all King does in this novel is to lift the drain covers on that belief and poke it with a stick.
So, if an Englishman finds it hard to grasp the cultural importance of Kennedy and his assassination on the November afternoon in Dallas, does it follow that it's also hard to enjoy a novel that is so obviously culturally embedded in the land in which its set? The answer is no. Because King's genius is in his ability to create a world that we can believe in and fall in love with.
11.22.63 is full of literary Americana and in truth it's hard not to fall in love with the Fifties and early-Sixties America that King draws. The America in which we find ourselves for the majority of the novel has its fair share of dereliction, too - but all in all, this is the America that we have seen through Bill Bryson's eyes, through countless movies and through countless songs. And, one of the small things I absolutely adored in this novel was the literary motif that has become synonymous with King: the dark underbelly of America that is Derry, scene and source of so much evil in King's stories. Only this time, and in this context, Derry is the counterpoint to the picture-book America in which his characters otherwise reside.
The characters here are beautifully drawn. The story is invigorating and intoxicating (and if you're looking for an Isaac Asimov-style interrogation of the rules of time travel then you've come to the wrong shop, buddy) and you find yourself not only rooting for those characters, but immersed in their world, living opposite them - silent watchers of what feels so much like a real-life drama. That, I would argue, is the power of King's storytelling at its pulsating best.
Are some of the conceits contrived? Absolutely. Is the plot flawed in places? Yup. Does it matter? Nossir. Because, unlike the road of mediocrity, what King has done is closed the circle and pulled those loose threads together into a simple, but beautifully-articulated ending. There is a point, about twenty pages from the end, when the King who trod that road would have pulled the pin, written 'The End' and left us feeling anti-climactic. That he doesn't here means that particular moment, whilst bizarre, is nothing more than a short misstep on an otherwise long and deeply satisfying adventure.
Welcome back, Stephen King. It's good to have you back in the room
on 18 February 2013
Like many other reviewers, I found 11.22.63 very entertaining, taking the reader on a gripping ride from start to... somewhere near the end. The characters were engaging, elements of the story were fantastic and the Kennedy plot was extremely interesting. King's depiction of the late 50s/early 60s was absolutely brilliant and I felt drawn in even though I wasn't alive during that era. The reference to the racial and sexist elements of the time period demonstrated how well it was written, even though it was uncomfortable. Mostly I couldn't put the book down.
There were some disappointments though including; the ending (almost felt like there was no point to the entire book), the non-relevant info that bloated each chapter, the randomly changed future and the poor reason that Jake embarked on this crazy, lengthy mission when there was no guarantee that he could go back to reset it. The explanation about the time travel aspect of the story was unsatisfying and, while some may prefer this minimalistic sci-fi approach, I would have actually preferred a story that explored this element more or left out the coloured card man completely.
Plot is quite important to me so I don't feel that I can rate this higher than a 3 but the atmosphere, character development and emotion in the book is excellent. Overall I think it is worth the read to experience King's writing at it's best and the clever way in which history and fiction are blended so seamlessly.
on 16 November 2011
I'm a massive Stephen King fan and would probably give him five stars if he wrote the blurb on loo roll wrappers but 11.22.63 is amazing. Beautifully written, the story weaves itself towards its climax and pulls the reader along for the ride. The characters are believable and sympathetic and Jake's dilemma is a heart-wrenching one. You cannot avoid asking yourself what you would do in his shoes.
King's best books, of which this is most assuredly one, do something to me that no other writer's work can do. When I get to the half way point, I have to fight between the urge to read as fast as I can to find out what happens and my desire to slow the whole process down because I just don't want it to end. King's books make me want to stay in them forever. Of course, I can always go back and read it again but unfortunately in the real world, everytime is NOT a reset!
Loved this, buy it, read it, savour it - I'm jealous! Keep it up my man!