11.22.63 is the date John F Kennedy then president of the USA was assassinated in Dallas and is the title of Stephen King’s book which tells the story of a man who gets the opportunity to travel back in time to try and stop that killing. The killing is seen as a watershed moment on which the history of the USA and some would argue the world hinged. The characters in King’s novel argue that perhaps if Kennedy had not been killed then the Vietnam War may not have happened and certainly other assassinations that followed would probably not have occurred.
I will let you read the very good Wikipedia article on the novel for the plot summary etc. and rather dwell on my impressions on reading the book. First let me remind you that I have about 4 rows in my bookshelf filled with King books; dare I say I am his number one fan? No that would be stretching it, and I’d hate to sound like the nurse in ‘Misery’. Suffice to say that he seldom lets me down as a reader, although I do get annoyed sometimes at his endings which have a habit of falling flat. This book could have gone the same way if not for the intervention of his son who suggested an alternate and much more satisfying ending. After reading 700 odd pages the reader deserves a good climax!
I read the last 200 pages in one sitting yesterday evening and enjoyed every page, although I did think the alternate future was, dare I say it, a little too far-fetched (I’m talking about what essentially amounts to science fiction here so I say ‘far-fetched’ with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek) and the ending (even though alternate) rather obviously was flagged by King earlier on with his emphasis on the main character’s love of dance.
What is apparent throughout this book is the level of research required into the late fifities and early sixties that King, and his helper who gets a well-deserved nod in King’s afterword, have undertaken. Like the main character, let’s call him George, the reader is transported to a world that seems somewhat backward but certainly more whimsical and homely (despite the racism, wife beatings and general horrific mayhem that inevitably occurs – it is King we’re talking about here) than the present day. King has always had a great eye for characters, spoken language, odd colloquialisms, customs and old brands and this novel takes this into another enjoyable dimension.
There are also some excellent trademark tie-ins with other plotlines/characters from other books. Most notably in this instance ‘It’. There are a few nods and winks to other books, but I will leave the King aficionados among you to spot them. The (let’s call him) yellow card man for me was slightly unnecessary and felt a little underdeveloped, a little too ‘Dark Tower’/’Insomnia’ for my liking, but apart from that all the characters were, as you would expect, excellent especially considering he had the unenviable task of writing about some real historical figures which I can imagine was like doing a tightrope walk over a minefield.
In short bravo Mr King, bravo…