It’s been at least a couple of years since I read anything by Stephen King. The reason is that when I was making my Goodreads shelf it became apparent that I seem to have read more books by him than anybody else. So less familiar authors on my TBR list tend to take precedence. Also, I think King was at his peak in the 80s, his 90s outputs dip a little in quality and his 21st-century books even more so. Of his post-2000 AD books that I have read Lisey's Story, Under the Dome
and Duma Key
are not bad but not really up to his high standard. 2002’s From a Buick 8
is probably his worst novel
Still, I keep hearing about 11/22/63
, how good it is and how it is a “return to form”. The same thing was said about Under the Dome
but it did not quite pan out that way for me (it really is not too shabby, but it is not vintage King either). So I have added 11/22/63
to my TBR list where it languished for over a year before I finally got around to it.
Going into 11/22/63
is like coming home, King’s casual, almost conversational writing style is always immensely readable and immediately plunges you into the world of his story. That 11/22/63
is a story about a man who time travels from 2011 to 1963 to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the eponymous date of the book’s title is fairly well known and probably does not need to be elaborated upon. Of more interest to me is that although time travel is one of the oldest and commonplace science fiction tropes 11/22/63
is not actually science fiction. The protagonist Jake Epping does not have a time machine of any kind. The way it works here is more like a Twilight Zone scenario where there is a crack in reality and our hero simply steps through.
It is interesting that the main characters call the time portal a “rabbit hole”, in space operas the gateway through time is usually a “wormhole”, a shortcut through spacetime. King’s “rabbit hole” is more of an Alice in Wonderland
reference than another name for the sort of wormhole you find in a [a:Peter F. Hamilton|25375|Peter F. Hamilton|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1235123752p2/25375.jpg] novel. With this almost magical plot device, King is able to make up some unusual rules to make time traveling a bit awkward for Epping. No actual reason is given for the odd way time traveling functions in this book, and none is needed, it is basically an important plot device to enable King to tell the story he wants to tell.
One of the major attractions of reading a Stephen King book is the characters you will meet. King always effortlessly fleshes out his characters and make them not only believable but seem like people you actually know very well by the end of the book. So while Jake Epping is a stock Stephen King everyman protagonist who has greatness thrust upon him he is never two dimensional, and you go through the wringers with him.
The time traveling aspect of the book is very well done, I expected no less from an author of King’s caliber. I do love the uniqueness in the mechanics of his approach to it though. I don’t want to elaborate on this as it is worth discovering for yourself. Speaking of mechanics, I also started to see the internal workings behind some of King’s writing in this book. The way he would drop foreboding sentences here and there. The way certain scenes become predictable only to be followed by a scene out of left field. It makes his craftsmanship even more admirable to me.
I have not thought of King as a “horror writer” for a long time now and 11/22/63
is not particularly horrifying in spite of some flinch-inducing violence. More importantly it is a great yarn, imaginatively and passionately told. Evidently Stephen King’s mojo is still very much intact.