I’ll wind up the year with a review of a book I read a while ago, 11/22/63. Why post it now? Because we just recently watched the miniseries version on Blu-ray. Despite the fact that author Stephen King had some involvement in the series, the book is better. If you happened to watch that but never read the book, I urge you to go back and do that–a warning, it’s 849 pages! Note: the miniseries changes the portal arrival date to 1960; the review reference to 1958 is correct.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a story about what happens when Jake Epping, high school teacher, is introduced to a time portal surprisingly hidden at the back end of the pantry of Al’s Diner. Al, in his wisdom, doesn’t spend much time explaining the phenomenon beforehand to Jake; instead he urges him to check it out. Only after the experience with the portal does Al explain his purpose–Jake needs to go back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK in Dallas in 1963. The portal, coincidentally, takes one back only to one certain date in 1958 and no matter how much time spent in the past, the time elapsed in the future is only two minutes. The why of these functional elements is never explained, nor is it necessary for the story’s evolution.
I have read countless books that include or predominantly revolved around time travel. This may not be the best time travel book ever written, but it is very good. Without adding spoilers, it does a decent job of showing, not telling, the complications of traveling through time–clothing, money, time-bound cultural norms, etc. What it does a very good and very interesting job of is illustrating the resistance to changing events that the warp of time imposes on one who tries to do it.
Along the way, King treats us to an evolving love story, a partially factual and partially invented (the details at least) history of Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, his wife and “friends.” King does a good job developing the characters. What I found compelling about this book, is how it wound to the not entirely unexpected conclusion.
Not until the very end do we get a brief explanation of the portal from a gatekeeper of sorts, that Jake encounters each time he comes and goes. That this character is a gatekeeper is hinted at, but the foreshadowing is not heavy handed.