Review: 11.22.63 (King)

It’s refreshing to read this kind of original work: 11.22.63 (2011) by Stephen King is a fantastic historical story in many ways with time travel, political ideology, and then nostalgia at heart.

Jake Epping, a high school English teache
r, is set a mission by his dying friend Al – use the ‘rabbit hole’ which takes you back to 1958, hang around there for 5 years, then stop the Kennedy assassination.

Living in the past presents some problems, obviously, and King lets his main character discover them the hard way. We see Jake relish in the ‘good ol’ days’ but also get his fair share of intratextual metaphorical bitch-slaps of the downsides of the 60s, as well as the past fighting tooth and nail to protect itself from the impending change.

King is well known for his pictorial depictions of the US and, like some critic said about this novel, you feel like he’s got his own rabbit hole and only describes what he’s seen himself. It’s more than an image – it’s a feeling, a deep throbbing, where the mentality and psychology of the long-gone characters – of reality itself – comes to the surface in his verbal art. Yet, it is balanced and only as detailed as it needs to be. I’d do some highly dubious things to have King’s vocabulary (and it’s one of the reasons why I read his books!) and any writer would do well to learn from him.

However, once I finished the last page of this brick of a book, I felt like I’d run a marathon. Exhausted, tired, relieved.

The final section after the climax is too long and too much of a digression. King manages to squeeze in his trademark WTF part, from which he has nobly restrained himself in the other 700 pages (where, for example, a lot of the physics of time travelling are left untouched). The apocalyptic chapters in the end seem contrived and over-indulgent when the rest of the novel has kept its SF features so realistic and close to heart.

Nevertheless, King has done some remarkable research for this novel, all the while admitting that he’s taken liberties with the temporal order of events to fit his story. It only seems suitable for a novel which deals with time and the manipulation of it.

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