11/22/63

JFK was President when I was born, so his death didn’t mean much to me.  But the Kennedy assassination was one of those Big Moments in American history, something important that happened in modern times and was recorded for all the world to see.  It’s been a lighting rod for sci fi writers, here is a moment where the question What If? all but asks itself.

I listened to the audio book version of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and it has to be one of the best audio books ever recorded.  Reader Craig Wasson brings the story of our hero Jake/George to life with his brilliant voice acting.  His only weakness is a fondness for mimicking famous movie actors; I might not have chosen Burt Lancaster to be a Jewish pawn broker, but it still worked.

11/22/63 is a long book, 849 pages and over 30 hours of audio.  There’s a ton of history and as always, King is a master of the telling detail.  The timeline of 11/22/63 covers about five years, the bulk of them lived in the past of 1958 to 1963.   Like all time travel tales, our hero can’t resist the urge to change just a few things while he is there.

There was a BBC show called Goodnight Sweetheart which was about an average Joe who finds a wormhole to the past and promptly lives a double life.  11/22/63 feels like it might have been inspired by Goodnight Sweetheart, of course, King adds a few twists of his own to the story.

11/22/63 is a romance, an adventure story, and above all, an escapist tale.  Who hasn’t dreamed of running away from home?  Here we have a hero living a fairly dull life, who goes back in time and can live life to the fullest.

Spoiler Alerts—-A few questions about the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved 11/22/63, but I didn’t like the results of Jake/George’s actions on the future.  I’ve seen other stories where it has been shown that saving Kennedy’s life would be a Bad Thing and that WWIII would be a likely result.  Stephen King goes a little more supernatural than I like-by tweaking the timeline God or Fate or Gaia or Something causes earthquakes that will ultimately end in the destruction of Reality.  This is a far cry from saying that an American lead by Kennedy leads to further conflict with the USSR or China and an exchange of nukes results.  How does saving Kennedy cause earthquakes to shatter the world?  This glimpse of dystopian America is brief, but annoying.

Then there is the problem of the Yellow Card Man/Watchers.  If they are aware of problems caused by these wormholes and the damage done by accidental tourists, why didn’t they do something to stop Al from using his Rabbit Hole in the first place?  And if they couldn’t do anything, what was the point of hanging around and going mad?

One of the great weaknesses of all Time Travel stories is the Get Out Of Jail Free Card effect-you can do anything you want, so long as you can use the time machine you can fix it.  Jake finds out that using his time machine resets the past every time it is used, so right from the get go, we are told that nothing Jake does will really matter.  If he does something that almost destroys Reality, he can just use the Rabbit Hole one more time.

 

Jon Herrera

Jon Herrera

Writer, Photographer, Blogger.
Jon Herrera

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Writer, Photographer, Blogger.

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5 comments on “11/22/63
  1. NONE says:

    I’ve read most of King’s books, and I think this is one of his best. If not the best. He really threw his heart into this one. It’s well above relatively pointless efforts such as “From A Buick 8”

    And its got easter eggs, in case you didn’t know. He made a big deal about the dreary town of Derry and those dancing teens due to his “IT” novel, for example.

    And yeah, I agree that the thing about changing assassination history cuasing earthquakes wasn’t that good.

  2. DESCARTES says:

    I never read It, so when they were talking about the killer clown I naturally thought of John Wayne Gacy. I did noticed references to Haven and Shawshank Prison.

  3. NONE says:

    The clown from IT was directly inspired by Gacy. Christine, the red and white Plymouth, also shows up from time to time in 11/22/63.

    King sure hates Dallas with a passion, doesn’t he? But his Maine is probably as far from Texas culturally and geographically (in the lower 48 anyway) as one can get.

  4. DESCARTES says:

    As a good citizen of Ft Worth I have always hated Dallas as well. My Mom always said that if Kennedy had the good sense to stay in Fort Worth everything would have been fine.

    Maine, at least what I have seen of it, doesn’t have much of a minority population, so it’s easy for them to think of themselves as more open minded than the redneck South, where whites are quickly becoming the minority of choice. In my many travels around the country, Maine was the only state where I ever heard racist remarks steered my way-and pretty much the only time I have ever heard racist remarks steered my way since I left grade school.

    My dear old sainted Scotch/Irish Mom used to tell me how her and my Mexican Dad were often refused service in restaurants in the late fifties and early sixties-she could always relate to the closing scene in the movie Giant.

  5. NONE says:

    There is a common misperception that the South = racist and the North not, but as you show it is certainly not the case.

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