Reader Beware: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Time Travel, the plot line no Sci-Fi story has ever been able to get right in the history of time. Seriously, even the good time travel movies can’t keep their continuities straight. But, Stephen King is arguably one of the most influential writers of our generation. Surely, he can get it right… Right? This is 11/22/63.

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Jake Epping is an English teacher in 2011 who one day is approached by an acquaintance who owns a diner, Al. Seems Al has found some sort of worm-whole into the past (specifically the year 1958) and has an idea: Save Kennedy. In turn, the world should be a better place because reasons. Jake decides to take on this challenge. But sometimes, the past doesn’t want to be changed.

I first became aware of this book thanks to the Hulu series currently airing. When I saw a trailer for the series, I thought the premise was great. Who hasn’t had the thought of going into the past and changing a major world event like the Kennedy assassination? Sure, time travel plots don’t always work, but sometimes a good premise and good execution outweighs logical problems. Luckily, the same is true here… for the most part.

At over a thousand pages, this is quite a hefty read. And I will say right now that I think about 80% of the book is great.  Stephen King is a master of atmosphere and character study. He has an understanding of one man’s struggle through life in general that I haven’t seen any other author recreate. That being said, 80% of greatness still leaves at least 200 pages of problems. I truly think this book could have gone back for at least one more rewrite. There are many scenes and chapters that, while do build upon a fascinating world, really just did nothing more than take up time.There were whole chapters that pointlessly and fruitlessly tied this book to “It,” that popular scary clown book by the same author. I just didn’t get why these connections were in this book at all besides wasting time.

I also think one more rewrite could have greatly helped with this book’s catastrophically bad ending. Dear lord, I don’t think I’ve seen a botch up for an ending this bad in quite a while. This story was doing great. For about 800 pages, everything was going smoothly. Leave it to Stephen King to trip at the last hurdle. This is a minor spoiler, but I just have to say it: AMNESIA IS A STUPID PLOT POINT. All it did was pad out the book for another hundred pages while the main character caught up with the reader. It was boring, tedious, and annoying as Jake tried to relearn the things WE already knew.

Also, and this may go without saying as this IS a Stephen King story, but don’t expect anything at all to be explained. Why is there a hole to the past? Because. Why is the past trying to stay the same? Because. Why is there a homeless guy that seems to know what’s going on? Because. Who is he? Because.

I can’t recommend this book. A lot of it is enjoyable, sure, but it’s just too damn long. Also, the ending and lack of explanations just left a bad taste in my mouth. King isn’t my favorite author, but even with the bad ending, I can see why people respect him so much. If you enjoy this book, more power to you. I hope you enjoy reading it for the long month that it will take you.

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