11.22.63 by Stephen King
11.22.63 is Stephen King’s latest venture into the world of weird. Taking a break from the horrors that he’s become so famous for, 11.22.63 is an alternative history, science fiction thriller based around the assassination of JFK.
‘The day that changed the world.
What if you could change it back?’
Jake Epping is an everyday man, an English high school teacher and, according to his alcoholic ex-wife, emotionally repressed. However; when his friend and diner owner Al calls him at work one day, his whole life changes. Al is dying and Jake is the only person he feels he can trust with his secret. Al reveals a ‘rabbit hole’ back to 1958 located in the pantry of his diner.
Jake takes his first trip back in time and falls in love with the sights, sounds and tastes of the 1950s. On his return, Al explains why he has shared his secret and what he believes needs to be done. Al asks Jake to return to the past and stop the assassination of President Kennedy. His theory is a convincing one:
“If you ever wanted to change the world this is your chance. Save Kennedy, save his brother. Save Martin Luther King. Stop the race riots. Stop Vietnam, maybe.”
All Jake has to do is go back, confirm that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone in the assassination and stop it happening. The butterfly effect of this could save thousands of lives. But then again, the butterfly effect is far from predictable.
I love the ideas behind this novel and was intrigued by the blurb on the back. The questions of could you, should you and where would it all lead? For the first third of this lengthy novel (over 700 pages) I was completely gripped. I raced through pages, excited to discover more historical details, ethical minefields and the overall outcome. However; I’m sorry to say that about a third of the way in, the plot veers off to introduce a romance. Although Jake continues to keep up with Oswald and his actions, the tension and intrigue that had been built at the beginning ebbed away. Instead, it was replaced with another storyline of Epping falling in love with the emotionally scarred teacher, Sadie.
A couple of hundred pages later, the main storyline does grab you once again. I found a couple of hours of my Saturday completely flew by as I was desperate to know how it all panned out.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel; it’s a great idea. I am sure many will find the middle of the book character strengthening, but I found it unnecessary. At worst, it was distracting from the main story I wanted to read. It’s a really good novel but if it was about two hundred and fifty pages shorter, it could have been a great one.
11.22.63 has now been adapted into a Hulu tv series featuring James Franco. Check out the trailer below:
If you liked 11.22.63 by Stephen King then you’ll love Joyland, also by Stephen King.