Friday, January 13, 2012


11/22/63 by Stephen King

Ten years ago this month, Stephen King made the announcement that he was retiring from writing. I remember hearing the announcement and feeling a sense of desertion. I've mentioned it in another post, but it was King's book Misery that I read as a senior in high school that started my love for reading. Since then, I have read all of his books and while some have been better than others, I've enjoyed every single one of them. Fortunately, King has not been a man of his word. Since he announced his retirement, King has published a dozen or so more books and there's both another Dark Tower book and a sequel to The Shining coming soon

One of my favorite early books by King is The Dead Zone. In it, the main character Johnny Smith wakes from a coma to discover that when he touches people, he has a brief vision of their future. When that ability reveals to him that a local politician will eventually become the President of the United States and start a nuclear war, he struggles with what steps, if any, he should take to prevent that from happening. He asks himself the question: If I had the ability to go back in time and kill Hitler before he became the leader of Germany and caused World War II, should I do it? In 11/22/63, King comes back to that idea of going back and changing the past to create a better future, but instead of Hitler, this time it's Lee Harvey Oswald's life that he explores whether the world would be better off without.

There's a hole in the state of Maine, a hole that a person can enter and arrive at 11:58 A.M. on September 9, 1958. The hole is in the backroom of a local diner, a diner owned by Al who has been going through the hole for quite some time. Initially it was just to buy his food supplies at 1950's prices, but eventually his purpose in going back became more substantial - to prevent the assassination of JFK in 1963. But Al's time is running short. Even though every time he returns through the hole, only 2 minutes has passed in 2011, he has been spending years at a time in 1958 and his life-long smoking habit has put him on death's door. So he introduces Jake Epping, a loyal customer of his, to his secret and wants Jake to try to do what Al has been unable to accomplish.

I should say here that I love stories about time travel. I love the paradoxes it creates and the usually unforeseen ripple effect that comes with it. There have been a lot of great stories that involve it and 11/22/63 is one of the best. As he usually does, King has taken an otherwise ordinary character and placed him in extraordinary circumstances and then just seems to take a step back and watch along with all his readers to see what happens.

It's not rare that I enjoy a book that I'm reading. But what is rare is when a book is so good that I'm tempted to skip to the end of the book to see how things turn out. I've never done that, and I never will, but I was constantly fighting the urge to do it with 11/22/63. The story is fantastic. Needless to say, I'm enjoying King's retirement immensely.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

No comments:

Post a Comment