Thursday, July 19, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Jake Epping leads a boring life in 2011. As he finishes grading papers of his English class in 2011, he remembers reading Harry Dunning's story on how his father killed his entire family and almost him when he was a child, leaving Harry with a permanent limp. Jake is interrupted by friend and diner owner Al who sounds very sick. Jake drives over to the diner and Al looks years older than he did yesterday. Al wants to share his secret with Jake, as he's learned he has cancer: there's a rabbit hole in the diner's cellar that leads back to September 9, 1958.

Jake walks through the rabbit hole and visits 1958 for a short period of time, just to get a root beer. Everyone seems friendlier and the food tastes better. Back in 2011 he learns that every time he goes through the hole, he's back at September 9, 1958. Time re-sets each visit. Al tells Jake his intentions were to go through the rabbit hole and wait for four years until the assassination of JFK so he could put a stop to it. He thoroughly researched Lee Harvey Oswald but couldn't finish his quest, or even determine if Oswald was the only shooter before he got too sick. Jake must go through the hole for Al and see if he can carry through this quest.

The past, however, does not like to be changed. It will throw everything at you to try and stop you from changing the past. Jake also notices how there are harmonies in the past. If he stops one thing from happening, it may happen somewhere else. This concept and the butterfly effect makes this book particularly interesting.

Surprisingly, this 800-pager is the very first Stephen King book I've ever read. I've never been a big fan of horror books but this is far from it. It's a cross between historical fiction, thriller, and science fiction. I've always had this preconceived notion that because King churns out so many novels that his writing wouldn't be very good, but that's not the case.

The characters in this book are near-perfect. Jake Epping is boring enough that you can relate to him but not so boring that he isn't interesting. He steps up when he needs to but in a way that you could picture yourself doing so. The other gems in this novel are the harmonies created in the past. People he meets are named the similarly, he sees his car twice, etc. This obviously took a lot of planning on King's part and it was executed very well.

Despite the high praise, there were some small issues that nagged at me. The first was why a restaurant owner would go to Jake with this information. They weren't close friends but rather almost acquaintances. Not the type of person I would share this information with. The second was when Epping noticed the harmony between Sadie (his girlfriend in the 60s) and the mother of Harry Dunning. I felt like I had missed a crucial piece of the plot when I read this part and actually had to re-read it a few times. I ended up searching the internet and seeing that other people had the same problem. I think King dropped the ball on this part.

The ending felt a little rushed, however it was really the only ending this book could have and I felt satisfied. This has been one of my better reads of the year.

First Line: "I have never been what you’d call a crying man."


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