Anyway, since I haven't been writing much lately, I've been reading instead and so I thought I would do a book review of my own. I used to be a big Stephen King fan, but then his work started disappointing me and I quit reading him. But I've been hearing good things about him lately again, so I bought one of his latest books, 11/22/63 and gave it a try.
Here is the review I put on Goodreads...
Stephen King is one of those rare
writers that is worth reading merely for learning the art of writing. While his
prose is rather ordinary, his ability to build characters, situations, and
moods as he progresses through his stories is unrivaled.
Having said that, I have always
felt that King sort of peaked a long time ago with the book, “It” and it seemed
his work took a sharp downward turn following that. After “Desperation” and “The
Regulators”, I pretty much quit reading him. They were well written, but they
just weren’t very good stories. It seemed like he had lost inspiration and had
fallen back on contrivance.
So it was with some trepidation
that I laid down the money to pick up a copy of 11/22/63.
Now, after finishing it, I can at
least be content it was money well spent.
11/22/63 is a big book, and it
meanders in places, but it is a great example of a master writer building a world
and characters, and introducing them to the reader. It’s about time travel, and
a man who goes back to try and stop the Kennedy assassination. And while this
is a plotline that has been done several times before, King does it in a fresh
new way and far more skillfully than most.
Jake Epping finds himself
confronted with a time portal, one that seems to have spontaneously appeared
due to some natural phenomenon. His
friend, has been using it for a long time but is now dying and wishes Jake to
undertake a task he failed to finish. Stop the Kennedy assassination.
The problem is that the portal only
goes to one date in time…about five years before the assassination…and the
future end of the portal is most likely about to be destroyed. So Jake has to
go back to 1958 with little preparation and build a life in the past as he
waits for the day of the assassination to arrive. He makes one trial run into
the past to prevent a different murder, just to assure himself that he can
indeed change it, then goes all in.
Much of what this book is really
about is the life that Jake (now George Amberson) builds for himself, and the
conflict that arises between that life and the mission he has taken on to
investigate Lee Harvey Oswald and stop him. What happens when you build
something good, but your efforts to change the world is throwing all that in jeopardy?
The past doesn’t like to be changed, and
it has a nasty way of fighting back.
In the end, this is a good book.
It’s not like his tighter, more
focused works from the “before It” period, but it is a huge step up from some
of the things King wrote immediately after that. It tends to meander, which dilutes
the tension of the story, but at the same time it helps develop the characters.
I definitely got the feeling this book was about more than just stopping the
assassination and changing the past.
King also does a great job of
putting the reader back in the late fifties and early sixties, with all their
beauties and blemishes. It was a very different world, and he does a good job
of demonstrating that.
My only complaint was he had a
rather nasty view of Dallas in that period. And while he defends that in his
afterward, as somebody who grew up in sixties and early seventies Texas I felt
that his take was sadly two dimensional and rather unfair. It also felt like he
tried to balance that out with a rather bucolic view of small town Texas, which
seemed at times rather condescending as well. But that’s a personal gripe on my
part and I’m not going to savage the book for that.
So I do recommend 11/22/63. It is
an engrossing read…an eight hundred page novel that I finished in two days. It’s
not exactly King returning to his old form, but more of him bringing his skills
to a different form and for the most part succeeding.
Yep. It's not really a horror novel, although it does have a couple of horrific scenes, but overall it was good.
Maybe I drifted into being a horror writer because deep down I knew I was supposed to be a super-villain.
I think I could have been a pretty good super-villain. I would have dressed nice for the part, and always carried the role with dignity. I would have avoided excessive monologueing, kept my airducts small and uncrawlable, an never allowed a self-destruct button within a thousand miles of me.
But I would have insisted on a shark tank.
Because if you're going to have evil henchmen, you've gotta have a shark tank. Nothing says, "You have failed me for the last time," like a short, exciting swim with the sharks. And it's a great motivator too.
Or maybe I really wasn't cut out to be a super villain.
D. Nathan Hilliard lives in Spring, Texas with his veterinarian wife, two children, and two cats. He draws his inspiration from a childhood living in different small Texas towns, accented by teen years spent in western New Mexico. He has experienced life through a diverse collection of jobs ranging from meter reading and being an assistant manager at a convenience store, to working at cotton gins, window factories, and uranium mills. After coming down with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) at the turn of the century, Mr. Hilliard now happily settles for tending house, raising his kids, and exploring the field of writing.