Thursday, July 25, 2013

11/22/63 by Stephen King #bookreview

Book blurb:
If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be what you hoped?

Jake Epping 35 teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries reading the brain-damaged janitor's story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father. On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock n roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas guzzlers without seat belts. Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life?

My review:
This book is long, long, looooooong. It is 866 pages long - the equivalent of 2 1/2 or 3 normal books. I felt like I was never going to finish it and I didn't feel like it needed to be quite as long as it was. There were certainly parts that dragged for me a bit. But that is the absolute worst thing I can say about it.

Time travel is one of my favorite plot devices and I think it is really intriguing that this book takes a real life world changing event and fictionally tries to change the outcome via time travel.  Stephen King is the master of horror, but this is not a horror tale in the true sense, although there are some malevolent forces apparently at work here. It is a very complicated action, political thriller, science fiction, and romance novel. I admit I had a little trouble keeping track of some of the characters and sometimes had to pause to reflect on exactly who they were when they were mentioned again later in the book.

It raises a lot of good points about the butterfly effect (also known as the ripple effect) of time travel and how we really just don't know the far-reaching consequences that each and every tiny detail of our daily lives can have.

The plot is simple, go back in time and try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. But the story is very complicated, because to do that Jake Epping has to live in the past for five years before that momentous day arrives. There are many wrongs he feels the need to right along the way, and yet he needs to be careful of that butterfly effect.

While the ending of the book might not be all that humanity might hope for, it is a very satisfying one. Well done Stephen King for tackling such a difficult topic and showing us how you might imagine it would play out. 

If you have the time to devote to a book of this length I highly recommend it.

Whether you have read this book or not please tell me - do you think preventing John F. Kennedy's assassination would make the world a better place today? Why, or why not?

About the author:
Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his parents separated when Stephen was a toddler, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of the elderly couple. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and then Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He and Tabitha Spruce married in January of 1971. He met Tabitha in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University of Maine at Orono, where they both worked as students. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many of these were later gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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