Before I begin, I should say Stephen King is one of my favourite authors. His short stories rank amongst the best I have read, and his novel Christine has been consistently in my favourite three books for the past twenty or more years.
Having said that, I have been disappointed in many of his novels for a long time. I found the whole Dark Tower series a little unsatisfactory. Cell and Under The Dome started really, really well, but then lost their way at the end. Still, I am a completist in certain things, and Stephen King is one of those (other authors include Douglas Adams, Robert E. Howard and HP Lovecraft, while I also have every album by Queen, Meatloaf, Weird Al Yankovic and Mike Oldfield – my tastes are nothing if not eclectic). But it has come to a point where I buy a new Stephen King book and get around to reading it when I get around to reading it.
In 2011 Stephen King released 11/22/63. I bought the hardcover, and it sat on my shelf. So I got around to reading it, and damn if I couldn’t put the thing down! What a story! For those unaware, the title refers to the date of the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy. Well, in this case, with the urging of his friend Al, Jake is put in a position where he can stop the assassination. A hole through time opens to a point some time before the assassination, and this gives them the chance.
But so many things try to hinder it, as though the big events should not be changed. Betting syndicates, love, former partners, following Lee Harvey Oswald, the authorities investigating, it all tries to prevent Jake from succeeding. And it all makes sense in the context of the story.
The ride is amazing. It took me three days to get through over 800 pages, and then I recently re-read it because I wanted to be sure of what I was reading. Only one thing stuck out – the natural disasters. But if we take more nuclear tests and explosions and bombings into account, maybe they can even be explained.
Not only was the journey to the end one hell of a ride, but after it was all over, it all made sense, and the repercussions were logical and well thought out. And then the very final denouement was nice without being sickly sentimental. Not horror, but science fiction (or speculative fiction involving time travel) with a touch of urban fantasy about it.
A fine return to form, and not since From A Buick 8 had I enjoyed a Stephen King book so much. Easily one of my favourite 5 King books, and one that, I think, has been overlooked unfairly. I will be reading this one again.