Stephen King’s 11/22/63 Does Not Enhance Kennedy Era History
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
11/22/63 is a better read than many of King’s middle-era works, but it should have been edited to 50%. The plot, which revolves around a time-traveler’s hope to prevent John F. Kennedy’s assassination, rambles all over. The read feels like Mr. King had like five books in his head that he had to get out all at once. They are tied together loosely; a Deus ex machina pops in with regularity to act as cement and force the story line to hang together.
The characters are less alive or empathetic than Kings’ other assorted usual suspects. I rooted for Carrie. I empathized with the fire-starting kid. I even cared about the mom and kid attacked by Cujo. The crazy woman in Misery left me cold and Delores Claiborne? Ugh. I got back into the swing with the people in Bag of Bones. But I couldn’t cozy up to this assortment. I found myself not caring all that much how they fared.
I enjoyed some of the historical notes, in fact, I was motivated to look up some stuff about Kennedy’s administration. The ending of the book, sort of alternative history mixed with typical time-travel issues seems an after thought. I couldn’t put my finger on why King wrote this tome or who his audience is. I concluded he wrote it for himself, as the afterword sounds like he’s trying to find closure on a traumatic historic event that happened in his life time. An homage? To Kennedy, or to King’s youth?
The time travel is a cop out. King chose to restructure the rules of fictional time-travel – his right of course, but then he disregarded his own rules. The main guy stomps in and out of peoples lives and well-being like a great white i a koi pond. Am I to believe that restructuring history with a bludgeon rather than a scalpel is ok? Yes, the reader sees consequences at book’s end, but at other trips back to the present, there is no apparent fallout. *shrug*
I can’t recommend this book unless you’re obsessed with Kennedy or with King. It began with incredibly engaging figurative language, a great pace, a premise that pulled me in, and an intriguing cover. Had I invested time to read 300, or even 400 pages or so, we’d still be friends, Mr. King’s writing and I. But nearly 1000 pages? Grrrrr. I ended by going on a quest for good time-travel books.