11/22/63 (King) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
King pulls off a sustained high-wire act of storytelling trickery…The pages of 11/22/63 fly by, filled with immediacy, pathos and suspense. It takes great brazenness to go anywhere near this subject matter. But it takes great skill to make this story even remotely credible. Mr. King makes it all look easy, which is surely his book's fanciest trick.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


11/22/63 is a meditation on memory, love, loss, free will and necessity. It's a blunderbuss of a book, rife with answers to questions: Can one man make a difference? Can history be changed, or does it snap back on itself like a rubber band? Does love conquer all? (The big stuff)…It all adds up to one of the best time-travel stories since H. G. Wells. King has captured something wonderful. Could it be the bottomlessness of reality? The closer you get to history, the more mysterious it becomes. He has written a deeply romantic and pessimistic book. It's romantic about the real possibility of love, and pessimistic about everything else.
Errol Morris - New York Times Book Review


a tale richly layered with the pleasures we've come to expect: characters of good heart and wounded lives, whose adventures into the fantastic are made plausible because they are anchored in reality, in the conversations and sense of place that take us effortlessly into the story…We are…reminded again that in Stephen King, we have proof that (as JFK himself once put it) "life is unfair." He is not only as famous and wealthy a writer as any of his time; his work suggests that if a time traveler found a portal to the 22nd ­century and looked for the authors of today still being read tomorrow, Stephen King would be one of them.
Jeff Greenfield - Washington Post


High school English teacher Jake Epping has his work cut out for him in King’s entertaining SF romantic thriller. Al Templeton, the proprietor of Al’s Diner in Lisbon Falls, Maine, has discovered a temporal “rabbit hole” in the diner’s storage room that leads to a point in the past.... Al confesses that he spent several years in this bygone world, in an effort to prevent President Kennedy’s assassination, but because he contracted lung cancer, he was unable to fulfill his history-changing mission. “You can go back, and you can stop” the assassination, he tells Jake. Jake...is inclined to honor his dying friend’s request to save JFK...[and]once over the initial hurdles, Jake is working under a pseudonym as a high school teacher in Jodie, Tex., an idyllic community north of Dallas...[and] zeroing in on a certain former U.S. Marine who defected to the Soviet Union and has recently returned to the U.S. with his Russian wife....Those folks [who claim Oswald acted alone] may have a problem with this suspenseful time-travel epic, but the rest of us will happily follow well-meaning, good-hearted Jake Epping, the anti-Oswald if you will, on his quixotic quest. —Peter Cannon
Publishers Weekly


In King's latest...the horror master ventures into si-fi. Maine restaurant owner Al tells high school English teacher Jake Epping that there's a time portal to the year 1958 in his diner. Al has terminal cancer and asks Jake to grant his dying wish: go back in time and prevent the 1963 assassination of JFK. Jake's travels take him first to Derry, ME—the fictional (and creepy) setting of King's 1986 blockbuster It—to try to stop the horrific 1958 murder of a family. Later, he heads to Texas, where he bides his time—teaching in a small town, where he falls for school librarian Sadie Dunhill—and keeps tabs on the thuggish Lee Harvey Oswald. It all leads to an inevitable climax at the Book Depository and an outcome that changes American history. Verdict: Though this hefty novel starts strong, diving energetically into the story and savoring the possibilities of time travel, the middle drags a bit—particularly during Jake's small-town life in Texas. Still, King remains an excellent storyteller, and his evocation of mid-20th-century America is deft. Alternate-history buffs will especially enjoy the twist ending. —David Rapp
Library Journal


King [turns] in a sturdy, customarily massive exercise in time travel that just happens to involve the possibility of altering history. Didn't Star Trek tell us not to do that? Yes, but no matter: ... King follows his own rules. In this romp, Jake Epping, a high-school English teacher (vintage King, that detail), slowly comes to see the opportunity to alter the fate of a friend who, in one reality, is hale and hearty but in another dying of cancer, no thanks to a lifetime of puffing unfiltered cigarettes. Epping discovers a time portal tucked away in a storeroom—don't ask why there—and zips back to 1958.... A different world indeed: In this one, Jake...sees an opportunity to unmake the past by inserting himself into some ugly business involving Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, various representatives of the military-industrial-intelligence complex and JFK in Dallas in the fall of 1963. It would be spoiling things to reveal how things turn out; suffice it to say that any change in Reality 2 will produce a change in Reality 1, not to mention that Oswald may have been a patsy, just as he claimed—or maybe not. King's vision of one outcome of the Kennedy assassination plot reminds us of what might have been—that is, almost certainly a better present than the one in which we're all actually living. "If you want to know what political extremism can lead to," warns King in an afterword, "look at the Zapruder film." Though his scenarios aren't always plausible in strictest terms, King's imagination, as always, yields a most satisfying yarn.
Kirkus Reviews




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