11/22/63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When a dying friend shows him a portal to 1958 in the back of his diner, Jake Epping finds himself venturing in the past with one goal in mind: Stopping Lee Harvey Oswald! But did Oswald do it? And can Jake stop him even if he did fire the shot that killed JFK?
Once I got over Stephen King's throbbing erection for the late 1950's/early 1960's, I enjoyed this book immensely. Here's how it all went down.
Jake's friend, an old diner owner, shows him a portal back to 1958. Each trip is like the first trip, meaning Al has been buying the same 12 pounds of ground beef at 1958 prices for years. Al wants Jake to stop the Kennedy assassination, something Al had been planning on doing until cancer laid him low. Jake gets railroaded into doing it and finds himself blundering around after Lee Harvey Oswald until 1963.
Yeah, it didn't sound that exciting to me either at first but I was hooked right away. Stephen King is criminally underrated as a writer, mostly because he writes mammoth best sellers more often than I clean my downstairs bathroom. Frequency aside, he can write the shit out of things. I had no trouble buying Jake's romance with Sadie, nor his reluctance to kill Oswald without being sure he was guilty, nor the idea that the past doesn't want to be changed. When the big moment came, I felt like the entire universe was at jeopardy, much like I did in The Dark Tower.
Speaking of The Dark Tower, there are Stephen King Easter eggs in abundance, like Jake meeting a certain two children in Derry, to the Takuro Spirit he sees by the road late in the tale.
I like the way King handled time travel, especially this exchange between Jake and Al, which I'm paraphrasing:
"What if you went back in time and killed your own grandfather?"
"Why the fuck would you do that?"
Another time travel bit I really liked was Jake had to take era-appropriate money with him. A lot of time travel stories neglect that.
While I was reading this, my girlfriend, who forcibly recommended the book to me, asked what I would do with a time portal that functioned like this one, returning two minutes after you left no matter how much time you spent in the past. I told her I'd sneak away and take long naps or go on reading vacations for a week or two of subjective time. That's one way to get some serious reading done.
I did have a few complaints, though. Jake does some awfully conspicuous things in the past for a guy who's trying to fly under the radar. Also, the aforementioned boner for JFK and his era. I have to think King was looking at the 50's and 60's through rose colored glasses. Food and drink tasting better in the past? Sounds like nostalgia to me.
All in all, this was the shortest 900 page book I've ever read and one hell of a read. 4 stars, leaning heavily toward five. I do not envy whichever book I read after this one.
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