Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review; Stephen King's "11/22/63"

But one quick thing first... I got another review for Dead Stop over at Jimmy Blue's Zombie Review. It seems he liked it :)

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.
Oh well, that's it for now.


  1. Like you, I quit reading King after "It" - although my reasoning was more that some of his stories got into places that were darker than I wanted to be in. I missed a lot of his later stuff and so had to take everyone's word for it that he had gone downhill in his writing. However, I've been wanting to read his newest one. It is nice to know that it is worth the read.

  2. Be warned, while this is NOT a horror book, it does have some dark elements. The murder that the man sets out to prevent just to prove he can is a bloody one.