Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: 11/22/63

11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

Anyone who is over 55 years old remembers where they were and what they were doing that day, the day Kennedy was shot. Stephen King was 16 that year. He had the idea in 1972 for this story: What if you could go back in time and prevent the presidential assassination? But in 1972 it was too soon, too fresh on every one's minds. Now the time is right, and the 849 page novel tells the story as only Stephen King can.

This novel is several genres all intertwined into one, a historical novel, a science-fiction tale of time travel, a work of fiction, with just a little King horror thrown in to round it out nicely. The overall combination makes for a great page-turner and provides some thought-provoking what-ifs?

If you are a fan of King, you will appreciate early in the story the reference to some previous King stories, mention of the Derry, Maine clown who terrified children, and the prison up at Shawshank.

Historical novel. King went to great lengths to get the history and facts correct in this one. No, he didn't just sit down at his typewriter and let the story flow out of his warped mind this time. He visited the key places in Dallas, talked with many experts on the subject, and viewed old film footage.

His story brings back those iconic black-and-white images we all saw on our televisions. The president and first lady riding in the convertible in the motorcade, Jackie in her blood-spattered pink suit standing with vice president Johnson as he took the presidential oath, Oswald in the police station gunned down by Jack Ruby. All of these accurate historic scenes and more were described in detail and integrated into the context of the story.

Time travel. I have always loved time travel stories. More research went into this part of the story, life in the early sixties, the language, the automobiles, the lifestyle, the money. The terms we learned in movies like 'Back to the Future' are here like time-space continuum, paradox, and butterfly effect along with harmony and residue. And the fact that time does not want to be changed, is obdurate about it, and will put any obstacle in your path to stay the same. [ob-du-rate, adj. stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or course of action, see STUBBORN. (just place your Kindle cursor on any word and the definition pops up, love it!)]

Fiction. Once all the research was done King incorporated it all into a story with believable characters, some you remember from the television coverage or from history books, some new ones. The time travel portal (or rabbit hole) takes you back to September 9, 1958, so with the plan to stop the assassination of JFK, you would have 5 years to kill in the past waiting for that fateful day. A lot of time to fill up with story line, and who better than King to create filler material. I admit (like some other King stories) it seemed to bog down just a bit in the middle, but maybe it was just because I couldn't wait for the fateful day to arrive to see what would happen. Would he really be able to prevent John Kennedy's assassination? Would that also prevent the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and maybe even Martin Luther King? What would be the ramifications? What would the future be like?

Horror. Unlike his usual books, this is not a horror story, but it wouldn't be King without a little scary stuff, and he sprinkles in some here and there just to keep you on your toes and looking over your shoulder.

The 849 pages went much faster than I anticipated, another great story from the master storyteller.

I remember where I was that fateful day, 11/22/63, (as told HERE) what about you?


Barbara Morey said...

My sister-in-law is reading this book now and I cannot wait to read it when she is done. One of my favorite movies is the Shawshank Redemption, I just had my boys watch it with me - again!
In 1963 I was 4 yrs old. I remember being on the living room floor coloring, my mother was watching the show Jeopardy (with Art Fleming) when the news broke about President Kennedy. My husband was 13 and he remembers being dismissed from school on that dreadful day. We often wonder what our nation would be like today if Kennedy had not died.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

On 11/22/63, my sister had her first child about an hour or so before JFK was shot. Her son is five months and a day younger than my son (my youngest child). My next-door neighbor was at my house when the woman cleaning her house came running over to tell us the president had been shot. We were glued to the TV for days after that.

Gael O'SCANLAN said...

On that very day I turned 21... Which was my official entry into adult life (at the time it was not 18!)