Not gonna lie, I was mad at Stephen King when I started reading 11/22/63. My adventures at the library had netted me a copy of two King books I had been wanting to read for a long time. First was Duma Key, which was excellent and terrifying and made me sleep with my lights on for the three days it took me to blast through it. Then came Bag of Bones, which I read and complained about in unequal measures for almost a week. Seriously, it was terrible. And I never thought I’d ever say that about a Stephen King book. The damn thing bored me to tears for 300 pages, then got really good for 200, but I never forgave it for the first bit.
11/22/63 made up for it.
In case you haven’t heard of it – even though it’s almost a year old – it’s a Stephen King book about a man who is introduced to a portal that takes him back to 1958, and a mission from a dying friend to enter said portal and save JFK from assassination. It’s not one of King’s horror novels by a long shot, more like sci-fi lite. And it’s awesome.
What an amazing novel. It was 842 pages long but it didn’t feel anywhere near that long. The first “part” was a novel in and of itself, and it could have easily been one of his stand-alone novellas in how fast paced and suspenseful it was. There was this moment at the very end of that part of it where I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish reading the entire book because I was so wiped out from reading up to that point.
Even the lulls in the action are propulsive, and before I knew it I had chewed up another 100 or 150 pages. The characters are all believable and mostly likeable, he’s got small-town Texas to a (somewhat nostalgic-for-the-60s) tee, and the story moves and flows wonderfully. I felt like I knew every one of the characters and cared deeply for them, so that when something happened to them, it was as if it had happened to me as well.
The parts of it that have to do with history, like Lee Harvey Oswald’s life before the shooting, are so well done that I had to remember for a little while that this was actually fiction. King weaves fiction and reality together in a way that makes all of it seem fresh and fascinating. He handles the “time-travel theory” really well, too, showing that the past doesn’t want to be changed and the future doesn’t necessarily need to be.
This is a book I will gladly buy at some point because I can read this one again and again, like I do with some of his older novels. I expect that I’ll see different things when I read it again, like I do when I re-read books, and I’m excited to think about it.
Go. Read it. You’re going to love it.