Most every time I recommend this title to someone they make a face and say, “Doesn’t he write scary things? Weird scary things?” Yes, Stephen King does that, but he isn’t limited to that alone. In 11/22/63 he blends alternate histories, likable and sympathetic characters, an intricate plot, and plenty of suspense to come up with this masterpiece. In a nutshell, it’s a Sci-Fi Romantic Thriller.
It’s something else…huge. Clocking in at 849 pages, it is a tome. Please, I beg you, don’t let that scare you off. There is a lot of dialogue, side characters, and side quests to keep things moving. You won’t feel bogged down by its enormity, I promise. If you are wary of being physically encumbered by it, consider the audio book or ebook version (your library has both).
So what’s this thing about? Essentially, Jake Epping (our main character) travels back into the past in efforts to stop the assassination of JFK [that’s your science fiction bit]. The time portal spits him out in 1958, so he has to live a number of years in the past. During that time he finds love [there’s your romance], saves some lives, tries to save some lives, starts a career and so much more. King does an excellent job at painting the scene and transporting you, the reader (as well as Jake), back in time so that you can nearly feel, taste and experience that era [there’s your historical fiction bit].
Jake finds that not only is he negotiating this unfamiliar time and place, as well as the gravity of his mission, he is also negotiating what King calls the “obdurate past.” I had to look up obdurate. It means, “refusing to do what other people want : not willing to change your opinion or the way you do something” (thanks Merriam-Webster). It’s as if the past is a character in itself. It does not wish to change. It wants its endings to be its endings, and it constantly is throwing obstacles and twists at Jake to derail him from his mission.
If you pick this up, and I hope you do, you will be tremendously devastated when it is over. Not for anything that happens in the plot, although that may happen as well, but simply because it is over. You will suffer a book hangover. You will want there to be more pages. You will read the Afterward, as I did, and still thirst for more. You will sit and look longingly out your window, unable to leave the characters and setting and plot behind.
Luckily, a mini-series based on the novel is currently being filmed! I literally gasped out loud when I found out. James Franco is playing the lead. The Inquisitr has an article about the production, I invite you to check it out. I’m excited just looking at the set pieces and costumes.
One last comment on the book…it will make you think about what you would do if you found a rabbit hole into the past. Would you alter the past for some uncertain future? Do bad things happen for a reason? Do we change who we are, and what the world is, if the past itself changes? It gets deep. Real deep.
Thanks for reading. -Ryan
If you’ve already loved this book, try one of these read-a-likes: