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Stephen King travels in time ...

January 26, 2012 - Lee Smith
I recently finished reading Stephen King’s latest book, “11/22/63,” which is a time-travel fantasy about an ordinary English teacher — Jake — whose dying friend convinces him to revisit history in an attempt to stop the Kennedy assassination. His friend owns a diner that somehow doubles as a time machine, capable of returning people to 1958. This fact, and what King sets up as “obdurate” history, means Jake’s journey becomes a five-year odyssey, rather than a simple mission.

Jake uses the intervening years to set right some other tragedies that occurred to people he knows, or knows about. Eventually, he sets about the work of tracking Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to determine just who the young man is and whether he is a loner or a conspirator. More importantly for Jake, he becomes a popular teacher in a small Texas town, where he — of course — meets the love of his life. Soon, Jake’s new life gets complicated, which just adds layers to the stress of his mission.

There are things to like and dislike about the book. It is certainly long and drawn out, but I suppose there wouldn’t be a book if Jake just popped into the past, shot Oswald and then exited history. I liked the simple financing Jake uses to fund his adventure — betting on sporting events of which he knows the outcome. I liked and disliked the “stubborness” of history that throws obstacles in Jake’s way. I liked King taking a look at whether the “future” would have been better had Kennedy lived. This is the lament of many who lived through the 1960s and Vietnam. King makes the reader consider a far bleaker neo-history.

I think, in the end, I would recommend seeing this book in movie form — should they make one — rather than reading it. But, if you have time, are patient and really like history, you’ll enjoy the read as well.


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