Monday, February 4, 2013
11/22/63 by Stephen King
I have this friend named Stephen King. OK, I've never actually met the man, but he's told me lots of stories and I'm fond of the guy. I've realized lately that I think of him as a friend, a buddy, a guy I like to hang out with.
Here's the thing about Steve. A lot of people don't like him. "Your friend Steve," they say to me, "He's weird. He thinks about horrible things. He writes about horrible things. And Christ, when they make movies of his stories, they really tend to suck." All those things are true, some times. Maybe most times. My pal Steve has written some stories that are way too gross for me, some stories that just don't work and some things that go on way too long. And some horrible (not just horror, but horrible) movies have been made with his name attached to them. But then there's "The Shining" and "Carrie" and "Misery".
Here's the deal about my buddy Steve: the man can tell a story. He makes me care about the people in it. This doesn't happen every time, with every book of his, but when it does, BAM! he's got me and I'm along for the ride.
With his book 11/22/63, Stephen King got me. I resisted for a while, the book's a monster, damn near 900 pages, but Amazon had it as a deal on the Kindle version. What the hell, it's lighter to carry and that buy button is too freakin easy.
Three days. I slammed through the book in three days. I stayed up late, I got up early. I loved this book.
You can read the blurbs on Amazon or somewhere else. Time travel. A guy goes back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination. You may be thinking, not my kind of thing. Or "I hate Stephen King" stories. I hope you'll think again.
The master stroke in this book is the voice of Jake, the narrator, a 35 year old English teacher. I believed Jake's voice from page one. I cared about what he cared about. I was as incredulous as he was when we first encounter the time portal, but I had to try to figure out how it worked, what could be done. Who cares about Kennedy, can I use this to help my friend?
Page by page, I did care. I had to care. I had to know. I didn't know if Jake could change history, but I knew he had to try. I knew I had to try.
Yes, it's a Stephen King story. There's some gross stuff there. There's a little bit of scary stuff there. But there's a whole lot world there, with people you'd risk everything to save.
11/22/63 is one of the best books I've ever read. It's a long book that doesn't feel long, it rockets along and then it lingers in your mind. It's a magic trick and a time machine. It's a puzzle of a story where big things happen but it's the smallest things that matter.
Try it. Get a few chapters in. If you can stop, if you don't care, walk away. It's not your thing. Nothing wrong with that, not all stories are for all readers. But I think you'll stay.
My buddy Stephen King has written a masterpiece. It's called 11-22-63.