Friday, 20 January 2012

11/22/63 (Book Review)

The King of Horror is back. His latest book tells the story of Jake Epping, an English schoolteacher charged with a mission that could very well alter the course of history. Underneath a diner in Lisbon Falls, Maine, exists a portal that links to a specific date in 1958. Using that portal, Jake must attempt to stop Lee Harvey Oswald, the man responsible for killing President John F. Kennedy.

Right off the bat, the narrative opens with a glimpse into Jake Epping's mind (I've never been keen on first-person narratives, though I'll admit that this is one of those rare occasions where it works for me). But as you plod through the 800 or so pages, you begin to have a sense of just how long-winded that narrative tends to get. This is one rather long novel, and the problem with long novels is they scarcely successfully keep the ball rolling from start to finish. Needless to say, this one has its fair share of highs and lows.

The thing I love most about this novel is the way Mr. King was able to depict quite accurately American life in the late 50s/early 60s. You really get a sense of the amount of research that must have gone into painting that portrait. The fact that the action takes place within a historical context does nothing but further heighten the level of credibility. I've always held the belief that the decade I'd most love to experience was the 70s, what, with the disco music, afro hairdos and bell-bottoms. But after reading this book, I am not quite as sure.

I feel my sole criticism has to do with the length of this book. I said it before, but I'll say it again: this book is overly long. This was why reading it sometimes felt like a chore. The bulk of the novel follows Jake's day-to-day activities, which include buying classic automobiles, getting haircuts, gambling, running surveillance, directing high school plays, falling in love and of course stopping violent murders. But as the novel nears its climax, the suspense really racks up and you find that you can't turn the pages fast enough. All these things add up to a great overall experience.

Prior to this novel, the only other book I'd read by Stephen King was On Writing, a must read for aspiring writers. I guess it's high time I go back and read his extensive backlist. Long live the King.

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