Thursday, 4 May 2017

Devouring Stephen King: 11/22/63

People have been telling me for the longest time that 11.22.63 is the best. Whether it's their favourite Stephen King book, or merely the one they've just read and LOVED, it's maybe the book I've heard about most during my long, long King pilgrimage. 'I'm reading all of Stephen King's books!' 'OMG have you read 11/22/63?' 'No, but I've heard it's GREAT! I can't wait!'

But oh man, have I waited. 11/22/63 was published in the November of the same year I started reading all of the Stephen King in, I think, March. While I was back in his works of the 70s and early 80s, everyone was reading this book and LOVING it, while I tried not to whimper too hard or think about how long it would be before I could read this book. About 5 and a half years later, here we are, and guess what?

I LOVED it.

If I'm going to be entirely honest, I thought the start was slightly slow (and that is, quite literally, my only criticism of this whole damn book) and at that point I'll admit I panicked slightly. Not so much because I was worried that I was about to be crushed by the weight of my own expectations (always a concern, admittedly) but more because it is such a long book not to love, and I have imposed a weirdly strict deadline on myself for finishing all of the King and I'm just. So. Close. you guys. But as you can probably tell, I FINISHED THE BOOK cause, you know, review and everything. If this ever turns into anything resembling a review, that is. Ahem.

So. The plot of this book goes as follows: a man is called by his favourite diner owner one day who is mysteriously dying of lung cancer when he was fine the day before. It emerges that said diner owner has discovered a portal to 1958 in his stockroom and, having lived in the past for 4 years has contracted the terminal cancer now killing him. He asks Jake, our hero, to go back into the past for him (where, interestingly, every visit is a reset) and to wait from September 1958 until (amazingly) 11/22/63 (22nd November 1963 for, y'know, British people) to save JFK from assassination. It is an awesome premise, but where it goes from there is just so much better.

Because it's not really about JFK. It's not even really about time travel, even though I think King has a really interesting version of time travel that I don't think I've ever seen before, and that I would have liked teased out a little bit more. What it's really about is Jake, about overcoming impossible circumstances, about finding love in the weirdest places (and, let's face it, times), about heartbreaking decisions and impossible consequences and so many more things that you're really going to have to read to find out about. I have to give a bonus shout out to Jake's 1960's girlfriend Sadie, who honestly is one of my favourite King women now- so well fleshed out and interesting and feisty and oh god I loved her so much can I just read this book again right now?

I think this book gets extra points with me purely because it returns to Derry and It remains my favourite Stephen King book. King returns to so many places and scenarios in his books, and although Derry is mentioned fairly often, I believe this is the only time it has been returned to in a significant way. Jake visits just after the events of It, meets Beverly and Richie, and just generally describes the atmosphere of the place from an outsider's perspective that couldn't really be done in It (where everyone is inside). I ate it right up, and it tasted great. It turned out to not even be my favourite part of the book (ok, all the parts are my favourite) but it gave me certain excited thrills that's really all I look for when I'm reading, you know, anything.

So here it is. I can confirm, once and for all, that 11/22/63 is exactly as good as everyone has been saying it is. I would read it again in a heartbeat (if I didn't have so damn many other books to read, dammit), and I really just can't get over how good it was. There are no scary monsters, except for the past itself, (and of course the usual human ones) but that doesn't stop it from being one of King's finest.

In my most humble opinion, of course. Ahem.

4 comments:

  1. While not my faaaaav King, it was def one that at the end I was like "Wait, that's it? BUT I WANT MORE" and that is not typically the response to a chunkster. I did really like the take on time travel and the whole resetting thing.

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    1. Yessssss I so wanted more! Which is not to say that it even ended abruptly so much as I just wanted more of the storyyyy (and also I wanted a different ending DAMMIT KING why you make me sad?)

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  2. If I'd been aware that you hadn't read this yet, I feel like I'd have been WAAAY more annoying about it. HOW HADN'T YOU READ THIS!? *hyperventilates*

    I just bought a copy for my secretary at work to read because she'd just made her first foray into Stephen King.

    I love how it's so many things at once - horror, historical fiction, sci-fi... but that then ending is SO ARRGHH.

    Except I will NEVER read it again because I just can't cope. The TV adapatation with what's-his-face was quite well done though.

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