I just finished Stephen King's 11/22/63
I am not a Stephen King fan by any stretch of the imagination. I really don't enjoy horror overall and The Dark Tower
series has never really done anything for me. But, I had read a glowing recommendation in one of the "So What Are You Reading" threads here and one of my buddies recommended it to me as well, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
Am I ever glad I did.
This is one of the all-time best books I have ever read. It has easily rocketed up the scale to be one of my all-time favorite books. This thing is a massive book and it really did take me some time to read (I'm traveling for work and don't have a lot of free time at the moment), but I didn't want this book to end. I actually felt myself coming down off a high when I finished the book.
The whole story of Jake Epping and George Amberson was absolutely riveting to me. I felt what he felt—both the euphoric highs and the terrible, terrible lows he experienced. I was positively heartbroken for him with the eventual resolution of a key relationship in the book. It has been a long
time since I have connected with a character in a book like that.
The book handles time-travel in an interesting way (and actually, the eventual "explanation" of the time-travel made me think a lot of how Christopher presented the nature of time travel in Watching the Clock
—they aren't the same, but there are some interesting parallels). The concept of using the past itself as a character (it makes more sense when you actually read the book) was brilliant as well.
The book really shines with its view of the late 50s and early 60s. This is not Leave it to Beaver
or I Love Lucy
. It is not a romanticized view of that time period and is probably actually a much truer depiction of life back then. However, when the main character gets to Jodie, Texas and decides he wants to spend the rest of his life there, I could definitely see why. Despite some other things he has to do that are not good, fun or even particularly noble, I actually felt his happiness and contentment with the life he forged for himself there.
Despite my effusive praise for 11/22/63
, I will admit that when the book sorta, kinda explained (but really didn't) the nature of the rabbit-hole (the time-travel device) and when Jake visits the alternate 2011, things somewhat fell apart and got a bit too science-fictiony (since, despite the science fiction conceit of time travel used in the book, it isn't a science fiction book). It did take me out of the world the book had created for a moment. But, that actually might have been the point, but I can't say more about that without giving anything away.
But ultimately, the book is not about time travel. It's about one man's crusade to try to put right a terrible wrong and the obstacles that he has to overcome and the sacrifices he has to make to do so. There are some (extremely minor) horror elements in the book, but nothing that is overt or that takes away from the core story of the book.
Despite being 800+ pages, the ending did feel a bit rushed. But, even though you hope it goes a different direction, you realize that you knew all along that it was going to end the way it did and there really wasn't any other way for it to end. The ending is very
bittersweet and I did find tears welling in my eyes as I read it. Again, it's been a long
time since a book has done that.
I read somewhere that this book was something that Stephen King had always wanted to write and was very passionate about but he had to wait until he felt he could actually do it justice. It's a good thing he did because this book is a masterpiece.