Spoilers throughout. You’ve been warned.
Since 1998, I have purchased two copies of every one of Stephen King’s books on release day; one to read, and one to collect. With the invention of ebooks, I’ve saved money by being able to buy one ebook copy along with a hardcover to add to my collection. I currently own first editions of all King’s novels. (Yes, even Carrie. I’ll be paying off that credit card bill for some time.) I own every novel and short story collection he’s ever published in hardcover, paperback, and audiobook form. I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to my collection (pictures on Goodreads), and half a closet full of doubles, triples, and trash copies I’ve worn out over the years. I cried when I heard he was likely dead after a van struck him in 1999. I hooted and hollered when he received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation, and most recently, when he was invited to the White House. Last October I started a reread of all of his novels (and, when time permitted, some of his collections), and after finishing 11/22/63, I have completed that challenge two weeks short of a year, successfully hitting my goal. During this reread of his catalog, I blogged after completing every decade of his career in a series I called “A Decade with King”, and those posts, if you’re interested, can be found here, along with my reviews for all of King’s works: https://edwardlorn.wordpress.com/52-i… Come December, my review of Just After Sunset will be featured on Mark West’s King for a Year project, which you can find here:http://kingreviews2015.blogspot.com/
I tell you all this not to brag, but to offer evidence of just how hard I fanboy over a man whom I feel is our greatest living storyteller. In my opinion, he’s one of the only popular novelists working today who have reached an insane level of success and still respects his craft. I firmly believe the only bad books he’s written were bad because he forced them out in an attempt to prove to himself that he could still write after almost dying. Even The Tommyknockers can be blamed on him trying to kick coke and alcohol.
With all that having been said, I must say, I never was all that thrilled with this book. Not upon first reading it, and not now. I’ve been asked why numerous times and my answer has always been the same. “I don’t like romance.” That, above all else, is why I don’t care for this book. Purely subjective. Reading this book is like reading Wizard and Glass all over again. Yes, wonderful, they danced together. It was sweet. Somebody get me an insulin shot. Awesome, he loves her after she’s disfigured. Wowzers, he blows all that hard work to save her … and yada, yada, yada … I know I sound terribly cynical, but I have a good reason for my dislike of romance.
No love story is greater than the one I am living. My wife is my world. She’s saved my life numerous times, and has given me two beautiful children. I am the luckiest man I know. And if you think I’m writing that to please the missus, you should know that my wife doesn’t read my reviews. She no longer reads my books, either. I’m a bit too bleak for her, and she likes to think of me as the cheery guy she sleeps next to every night instead of a peddler of nightmares.
Will you like 11/22/63? Probably. Most everybody else I know who’s read it loves it and calls it King’s best novel to date. It’s beautifully written, it’s just not my thing. The high points for me are all the sections without Sadie, which are few and far between. I also I didn’t care much for the scene in which Oswald’s plans are foiled. For such a long book, that one scene felt glossed over. Strangely enough, my favorite part of this book is when Jake returns to 2011 after having saved Kennedy only to find the world is one fucked up place. That’s the book I wanted to read, not 700+ pages of gushy love story bookended by about a 100 pages of actual story progression.
If I were ever to read this book again, I would definitely go with the audiobook. Craig Wasson does a terrific job, and his Kennedy impersonation is spot-the-fuck-on. I had big fun listening to this book this time around. Much more fun than I had when I read the text so many years back.
All right. Now we come to the warning I give in all my King reviews. You should know that this next section has spoilers for many of King’s works and not just 11/22/63. I only suggest clicking on the spoiler tag if you’ve read all of King’s work, or, at the very least, the Dark Tower books and their numerous tie-ins.
The idea of strings and colors and their effect on reality, which first appeared inInsomnia.
Takuro Spirit a car which, oddly enough, can be found in the plague ravaged landscape of The Stand as featured in Wizard and Glass when Roland’s ka-tet finally escape Blaine.
Ritchie and Bev from It have a rather substantial cameo, which I loved.
No conspiracy theories this time, folks. King has so many obvious tie-ins in this novel that there’s no speculation needed. The last time he connected so many dots in a non-Dark Tower novel was way back with Insomnia.
In summation: 11/22/63 simply isn’t my cuppa tea. It’s well-written, and shows a maturity of style that most authors never achieve, but the overall experience is lost on me because of all the kissy, kissy, lovey, dovey going on. I just wanted Jake to stop Oswald so we could see what the world would be like in the alternate future. What I got was a rehashing of the love story in Wizard and Glass that left a bad taste in my mouth. But I’m sure you’ll love it.
Final Judgment: No love lost.