Stephen King unsurprisingly tells a tale in 11/22/63 that is way more than it would seem at first glance, which in itself is hardly surprising because you don’t build a huge readership and fan base by going for the obvious. Mr. King always delivers that little bit more and he does it with style.
Ostensibly the book is about using time travel to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963 in Dallas Texas. The idea being of course that so many of the bad idea roads America travelled down following that event would have been prevented. Seems like a short sweet idea with a big final hurrah at success.
I said in a blog recently that we must be careful of what we wish for and Mr. King aptly demonstrates the why’s of that caution and by the time you finish reading this novel you may answer the question: ‘If you had the power what one thing would you change in the past?’ a little differently at the end of the book than you might have in the beginning.
For one thing the story becomes very personal on more than one level. I like that King writes from an everyman perspective so there are no big talk- their- own- language scientists around. How the time portal works from Al’s Hamburger joint by stepping through the pantry cannot be explained. It just is. And when you go down the steps into the past you always arrive at exactly the same moment: at 11:58 a.m. on the morning if September 9, 1958. This very fact has a huge impact on everything.
How Al Templeton, the original user of this portal, makes the best use of the opportunity may at first seem rather mundane, but then he experiments a bit with some deeper subjects and comes up with a plan that will have worldwide impact. Except, because of a glitch he must find someone else to do the deed, or as it turns out, the deeds. And that’s where Jake Epping aka George Amberson comes in.
Intrigue and sub plots are woven as intricately and delicately as an elaborate lace tablecloth double and tripled layered here and there and well everywhere. It’s a delicious story that is not as farfetched as say Michael Crichton’s Timeline (which I adore and reread again and again). Um I must take that statement back because Timeline is believable.
11/22/63 is expansive because it is not nicely encapsulated with a beginning, middle and end, but has endless possibilities in our own minds. The potential for discussion of those possibilities is immense and leaves the door wide open for more. What is the story of the man with the yellow card? I want to know more about him and the others like him. How many portals are there? Who else has used them to what end?
It is easy to become intimate with each of the characters: Jake, George, Harry Dunning, Al, The Yellow Card Man, Lee Harvey Oswald, Marina, June, Sadie Dunhill, so many that count so much. The people are as real as you and I and that is why we care so much about them. There are no heroes here, just folk like you and me, living the best we know how in any given moment, and often coming up just that wee bit short.