Stephen King’s most recent book, 11/22/63, is a time-travel adventure about a man from 2011 who uses a time “bubble” to attempt to prevent the KennedyStephen King’s most recent book, 11/22/63, is a time-travel adventure about a man from 2011 who uses a time “bubble” to attempt to prevent the Kennedy assassination. Writing a book like this is a bold move on the part of Mr. King. In the science fiction realm, time-travel stories are rampant and can easily become cliched and overdone. Furthermore, the Kennedy assassination is a kind of Grand Central Station for time travelers in fiction. It has been done in stories, books and television. So combining the two yet again was something of a risk. But after reading 11/22/63 it was a risk that I am grateful that Stephen King decided to take. The book is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when two over-used story lines are looked at with fresh eyes and a fresh approach. I loved the book from start to finish and most of the time had difficulty putting it down.
The story is told from the point of view of Jake Epping. Jake is a teacher in Maine. His friend, Al Templeton, who runs the local burger joint, lets him in on a little secret. In the back of the burger joint is a portal into 1958. It is a little hard for Jake to accept until he tries the portal for himself. Al has been back to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination, but is sick with cancer and passes the torch to Jake. Before Jake can try to prevent the Kennedy assassination, he first needs to prove to himself that the past can be changed and affect the future. This little side quest takes Jake on an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride through familiar territory: Derry, Maine, in 1958. After his hard fought success, he returns to 2011 and decides to take on the mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination. This means living in the past for 5 years. And meeting someone special and falling in love. I won’t give away the ending but it is equally as thrilling as the rest of the book.
Rather than use tried and true tropes of time-travel stories, King takes what seems to me to be a unique approach: each time you go through the portal, everything is reset back to the same day in 1958. This adds an important plot complication. Anything you’ve done to change the past is undone once you return through the portal to 1958. It means that if something goes wrong along the way, say, several years into Epping’s efforts, he can just go back directly to the point where things went wrong, but he has to start over from the beginning, much like a video game.
Jake Epping’s character is well-developed, like all Stephen King characters and the story is told from his point of view and in his voice, which becomes familiar and comforting. And there is a wonderful surprise for long-time Stephen King readers: some familiar settings, some familiar background stories, and even some familiar faces during the time Jake Epping spends in Derry, Maine.
The Kennedy assassination thread is also very well handled. King mentions possibly conspiracy theories, but proceeds under the assumption that it was a lone gunman and that helps to move the story along and avoid getting bogged down that has been rehashed in plenty of other books and movies. This is not a book about the Kennedy assassination. It is much more about the effect people have on the world around them–and each other.
Most of all, this was a fun book to read, an edge-of-your-seat thriller with just the right amount of mystery, mystique, adventure, romance, and humor thrown in for good measure. Yes, humor. The funniest scene I’ve ever read is contained within these pages. Don’t worry: you’ll know it when you see it. This read is well-deserving of 5-stars.
Another delightful Alex Benedict mystery. This one was more of a page turner than The Devil's Eye and I felt at times like I literally couldn't put doAnother delightful Alex Benedict mystery. This one was more of a page turner than The Devil's Eye and I felt at times like I literally couldn't put down the book. It's hard to say much about the story without introducing spoilers, but if you like stories about the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, cover-ups, space travel and good old detective work, then you must read ECHO....more
This book provided an incredibly vivid and in-depth look at life in ancient Rome and the birth of Christianity. I really enjoy Durant's style of writiThis book provided an incredibly vivid and in-depth look at life in ancient Rome and the birth of Christianity. I really enjoy Durant's style of writing, which is clear, rational and often littered with ironic humor. I can't wait to get started on the next volume in the series, The Age of Faith....more
This hard-to-classify book novel about horse-racing and more is absolutely hilarious. While Beyond Apollo remains my favorite Malzberg book, UnderlayThis hard-to-classify book novel about horse-racing and more is absolutely hilarious. While Beyond Apollo remains my favorite Malzberg book, Underlay is likely his funniest....more
I haven't finished a book since mid-August, my longest drought on record, and there was no better book to break that drought than Jack McDevitt's TheI haven't finished a book since mid-August, my longest drought on record, and there was no better book to break that drought than Jack McDevitt's The Devil's Eye. This is the fourth installment in Jack's series of science fiction mysteries involving Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath. Benedict is a trader of antiquities and Kolpath is his pilot and sidekick. Together, they solve mysteries that generally start with the discovery of some ancient artifact that cannot be explained. The stories take place more than 9,000 years in our future.
These novels are pure fun for me and the more I think about it, they are the type of stories that I enjoy writing. (In fact, my story, "Take One for the Road" coming out in Analog in 2011 is probably best-described as my attempt at a Jack McDevitt science fiction mystery.) Jack does an amazing job of taking a seemingly impossible event and pulling together a plausible explanation for it. In The Devil's Eye, the event is a memory wipe without explanation, and the results--well, I don't want to give anything away, but the story along the way has perhaps the biggest scope of any Alex Benedict novel so far.
The story involves political intrigue, travel to the far end of the galaxy, and grand cosmic events, all wrapped up into a tight mystery that keeps you reading to the very last page. The world that McDevitt paints in these novels is one that I wish actually existed. (The only other time I've felt this way is in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe.) Alex and Chase are like old friends. One thing I particularly like about this series is that it is a series only in characters. While there is occasional mention of events from previous books, the books are only very loosely connected and the novels themselves stand as independent mysteries, almost like the Agatha Christie Hercule Poroit novels.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Devil's Eye and I highly recommend it. I've already started on the next Alex Benedict novel, Echo, released just last month....more
I've now read all 3 of Stephen King's BIG standalone novels, It, Under the Dome A Novel, and The Stand. While I enjoyed The Stand, I think it was theI've now read all 3 of Stephen King's BIG standalone novels, It, Under the Dome A Novel, and The Stand. While I enjoyed The Stand, I think it was the weakest of all three. In part this might be because it was the first, but I suspect that some of it has to do with the fact that I think the ending of the book dragged on longer than it had to.
The first half of the book was outstanding, and in particular, I think King did an excellent job of painting a frightening picture of the world as we know it falling apart. When the book opens, things are business-as-usual and gradually, we find that even ordinary things are becoming difficult as the world dies from the flu. I think King is a master of detail in this respect. He is able to investigate each and every facet of normal human experience and illustrates how that experience is impacted by the world-wide disaster. His vision for this kind of writing is unmatched. The depth of his characters is also outstanding, and you find yourself occasionally frustrated by the good guys and having sympathy for the bad guys--and this is as it should be because nothing is black-and-white.
The fantasy element of the story bothered me, however, and perhaps that is simply an artifact of my difficulty suspending my disbelief. When the battle between good and evil entered the scene, I started to grow a little wary. I understand King's reasons for doing this, but I think the book would have been more interesting without this element. Second to that, more explanation as to why there was this supernatural element and how it related to the superflu would have been helpful.
I think the book should have ended sooner than it did. I didn't see much value in the final journey back to Boulder. There wasn't much new I learned about the characters or the situation.
Nevertheless, it was a good read, especially the first half of the book or so and I am glad I had the chance to read the book. 3.5 stars out of 5...more
Wow! I just checked my list and discovered that I have never, in 15 years of record-keeping, have I rated 2-consecutive books at 5-stars. Until today.Wow! I just checked my list and discovered that I have never, in 15 years of record-keeping, have I rated 2-consecutive books at 5-stars. Until today. On the heels of completing Connie Willis' stunning Blackout, I just zipped my way through Robert Silverberg's wonderful collection of autobiographical writings, Other Spaces Other Times. It was an absolutely terrific book, and if it had any flaw, was too short. I wanted more!
The book is broken into several parts. Silverberg discusses his beginnings in science fiction, his writing, provides and autobiography, as well as miscellaneous thoughts on his career. It is absolutely fascinating reading to anyone with an interest in the history of science fiction, but also to anyone (like myself) who is a writer, or aspires to be one. In the numerous essays, Silverberg talks honestly about his career, his approach to writing, the challenges he faced, and from this, one gets the sense of an impressive lifetime spent in science fiction. The sheer volume of writing that Silverberg was doing in the late '50s and early '60s boggles the mind. I thought Asimov was prolific, but even he does not match the quantity produced by Silverberg during this time.
I've read numerous biographies and memoirs of science fiction writers. My favorite has always been Isaac Asimov's massive 3-volumes. While Silverberg's slim book doesn't go into anywhere near as much detail as Asimov did, what is there is equally as interesting and a sheer joy to read.
The book contains an incredible amount of marginalia: photos, magazine covers, notes, all of which provides additional insight into Silverberg and his writing. It is a beautiful book, a bit pricy at $29.95, but well worth it....more
We read this book in 3rd grade. We would start each day with some "aerobics" and after that, we'd sit down at our desks and the teacher would read a cWe read this book in 3rd grade. We would start each day with some "aerobics" and after that, we'd sit down at our desks and the teacher would read a chapter from this book....more
Connie Willis' newest novel, Blackout had a lot of things in its favor even before I read the first page: (1) it was written by Connie Willis, whose wConnie Willis' newest novel, Blackout had a lot of things in its favor even before I read the first page: (1) it was written by Connie Willis, whose work I admire; (2) it's a time-travel story, which is a minor passion of mine; (3) it takes place in London in World War II, a setting which pushes more of my buttons. When I started reading it, I knew I would not be disappointed. The story follows three "historians" from Oxford, circa 2060, who are researching aspects of the Blitz in London. They do this by traveling back in time and embedding themselves in various events.
The story is rich with the setting and details of the period. The amount of research I imagine it must have taken shows through in the fine detail of what life must have been like during the Blitz. Having been to London, roamed the city and the Underground, I could picture very well where the events took place. Connie Willis' fabulous description, and especially, the little details she adds, helped complete the picture of what it was like 70 years ago, with bombs falling overhead. The characters come to life, too, and Willis even captures some rather witty examples of the British sense of humor that had me laughing out loud.
But the story has another layer, one which gradually build in tension: time travel itself, and its implications. More and more it appears that the historians are finding themselves stuck in 1940 London. The usual methods of extraction do not appear to be working. And no one knows why.
The writing really helps make the story come alive. Connie Willis is a master at this. The words on the page disappear and you feel embedded in the scenes, the sounds of the exploding bombs shuddering your bones, the droning of the airplanes rattling your teeth. She makes it look so easy, and yet if it were this easy to write a good story, everyone would be able to do it.
I don't give out 5-stars for books very often. (The last piece of science fiction to which I gave 5-stars was Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine.) I don't have hard and fast rules for this kind of thing, but there are 2 things that clue me in to the fact that what I am reading is 5-star material: first, it's a page turner, one that I can't seem to put down. I ended up finishing this book between 3-4 am simply because I woke up and had to know how it ended. Second, if I find myself getting close to the end of a book and wishing there was more, I know I've got something that's worthy of 5-stars. Both apply to Blackout. And yet--in this rare instance, my wish is coming true. For Blackout is really just the first half of the story. The second half of the story, All Clear is scheduled for a fall release. So the story will continue.
This leads to one of two minor issues I found with the book. First, the fact that the story ends abruptly with a cliff-hanger means that people will have to wait to find out how things turnout, and some people may find that frustrating. Second, it seems there are ways that our stranded time-travelers could make contact with their colleagues in the future--some fairly obvious ones--but those are not considered by characters. At least not in the first half of the story. (Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity hints at one possible solution--something that was also used in the Back to the Future series.)
Regardless, this was an absolutely wonderful read and I no eagerly await the conclusion of the story, desperately hoping it will be as good as the opening....more
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this. So far, It has been my favorite Stephen King. Under the Dome might not have topped it, but it came closeI wasn't sure what to expect going into this. So far, It has been my favorite Stephen King. Under the Dome might not have topped it, but it came close. And it was one of the best page-turners I've read in a long time. That's saying a lot for a book that's nearly 1,100 pages long and which I read in half the time it took to read It. I wasn't a Stephen King fan early on, but with the last few books I've read, including this one, I've become one....more