Rachel Reynolds's Reviews > 11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King
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Sep 07, 13

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Read from November 13 to 25, 2011 — I own a copy

I'm so happy Stephen King isn't really "retired". 11/22/63 was an epic novel (690 pages!) that did not disappoint. King is the master at spinning a good yarn. In his latest book, he creates a time travel scenario just this side of plausible with characters who are believable, likeable, and still genuinely human (i.e. flawed). As protagonist Jake Epping attempts to make good on a dying man's wish to use a found portal into the past to stop the JFK assassination, he embarks on a journey that is part history, part fantasy, and completely engaging. Through the lens of the early 1960s, 11/22/63 explores the possible implications of time travel, examining that age-old question: are we masters of our own (or someone else's) destiny or is life more about a predetermined fate. As narrator, Jake repeats two mantras throughout the journey. The first mantra, the past is obdurate, explores that idea that perhaps history doesn't want to be changed. Attempts to manipulate the past are challenged from all sides. The second mantra is the past harmonizes. Themes repeat. Characters recur. Plotlines merge.

I sometimes wondered if this was not just an exploration of the implications of time travel but also a commentary on King's own oeuvre where characters from Castle Rock and other tiny Maine towns show up randomly in various stories across the years. King aficionados will recognize several references to other works within the story. It was interesting to note that the kernel idea for this story has been muddling around in King's brain since the early 1970s. Given the depth of the historical information in the book, I'm sure a great deal of research went into the novel. I'm grateful to King for seeing the project to fruition. It was both an enjoyable read and a thought-provoking cautionary tale. Perhaps the past doesn't want to be changed but we certainly can control our future. Or can we?
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