Saturday, 18 April 2015

Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

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There's plenty of reviews for this book already, so I won't labour on that. I had been lent it by another SK fan, and at 1200 pages, it's quite a tome. I have read it reasonably quickly, and as usual, I'm hardest on my favourite authors.

First, the good news. Reading Stephen King is like coming home. You are pleased to have gone on your travels, but now you're back - you're home, and it's a good feeling.

The writing is well done as ever, it's interesting and has a very good hook at its core - that of time travel, which made me think that this book could fall flat on its face, or turn out to be brilliant. As I closed the book, I am a little inbetween on this, though leaning more towards four stars than two, hence the three star rating.

The initial characters are interesting and hold the reader's attention. The idea of travelling back in time to prevent one of the most infamous episodes in American history is one thing, but it opens up a real Pandora's Box where you find yourself asking...why stop there? Why not go back and stop Hitler assuming control of the Nazi party? How about going back further to biblical times? How about going back to 1997 in the UK and stopping Labour taking power, or Thatcher in '79?

Now that last comment may wind up some UK voters, but maybe it is intended to. King doesn't hold back on his political views in this book, and some reviews appear to snipe at him because of this.
I am okay with it - after all, I am not a US citizen so I am less affected by this, and I don't believe SK is as preachy as is being made out.

Other nitpicks....so many characters, many of whom were falling into the Needful Things shop of horrors - I would forget who was who at times, and why they were there. The 'love scenes', if you could call them that, are a little clumsy in their execution. But SK has done similar in his other books...so no real disappointment there.

However, all this aside, I was eager to see how he would take us back to the 1950s. It's fair to say that I imagined a Back to the Future type world where Mr Sandman plays in the background, but King, unsurprisingly, goes further, not only dragging us there, but placing us there. This, once again, is masterful writing and I suppose I should not be surprised that King...surprises me!

11/22/63 is not a horror, though it has its moments, and just like his recent Revival, it's creepy and well scary! It's hard to classify - it is a romance to some extent, a historical piece, a sci-fi drama. Talk about putting all your favourite eggs in one very full basket.

Most of all, it is readable, despite being of a length that would have IT and The Stand looking over their well-thumbed shoulders. (maybe we cannot thumb a shoulder...oh well!)

I'm okay with the ending, without being overwhelmed. SK usually delivers cracking endings....this one, not so much.

King completionists will not feel cheated by the book, and whilst it could never be accused of having filler, King does go off on a tangent some times that makes me think he forgets he has readers outside of the USA that won't 'get' all his popcorn messages.

It's probably worth a second read, but this is one author who fires out books with alarming regularity. I'm waiting with baited breath for Finders Keepers, which is out later in 2015. Go and wow us again, Mr King....but hey...you've done alright here.