Book Review · Historical Fiction Challenge

REVIEW: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/63 11/22/63
Stephen King
Hardcover edition

Synopsis: Jake Epping is a Maine high school teacher in 2011.  A friend of his shows him a “rabbit hole” to 1958 and encourages him to jump into 1958 in order to prevent the assassination of JFK in 1963.  Jake would have to stay in the past (“The Land of Ago” as he calls it) as George Amberson for 5 years to complete that task, but when he returns to 2011, only 2 minutes will have passed but he will have aged 5 years (a quirk of the rabbit hole). Every time he comes back through the rabbit hole and goes through again, a “reset” happens and he goes back to the same day in 1958. 11/22/63 covers Jake’s 5 years in the past, with all the obstacles he needs to overcome in order to succeed in his mission.  But when that mission is over, what will the future look like?

This is a loong book, clocking in at 849 pages.  But of course, we all know King is extremely well-known for the length of his books and the attention to detail he includes in them.  There were a LOT of details in this book and so much happened over the course of the 5 years, that when Jake/George mentions/notices a similarity to an occurance much earlier in the book, I didn’t always remember it right away.  Or the names seemed vaguely familiar, but until Jake/George specifically mentioned it, I wouldn’t remember exactly what part of the story I had heard that name before.  Overall, this was a good story and I read the book in about a week. I thought the premise of the story was a good one, having been intrigued by time travel and how it would affect the traveler’s present day/future for a long time now.

During my reading, a number of questions were raised: If Jake decided to stay in the past, what would happen when it was time for him to be born?  Would he still be born and then there would be two Jake Eppings in the world?  Did everything Jake do have a direct effect on how the future changes?  Obviously, he meets a bunch of people, so does meeting those people change the course of history? (nevermind his objective, because clearly saving the president’s life is a huge game changer).  Can one person, making even a small change (like buying a car for example), have a significant effect on history and thus the future?

Some of these questions are answered by the end of the book.

I thought the ending was kind of disappointing, but it made sense. I thought it could have gotten a little too sci-fi towards the end with the explanation of the rabbit hole (I know, I know: how can I complain about “too sci-fi” when the book is about time travel?), but it made sense, too.

One thing I hope never to hear again though, is that “the past is obdurate” or that “the past harmonizes”.  I wish I had read this on my Kindle just so I could see how many times both of those sentences were said, it was seriously getting on my nerves.

I definitely liked this book more than Under the Dome, but not as much as IT or The Eyes of the Dragon (two of my favorite SK – and all-time – books).

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10 thoughts on “REVIEW: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

        1. Ahhh gotcha! I would definitely recommend IT and The Eyes of Dragon. My 2 favorite books by him, which I think are better than this one. Like I mention in my review above, this was good, but not great. I can’t wait to see what you think, especially since this will be your first SK book!

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            1. Oh, I haven’t read that one. I’ve read 2 other SK books, though, Misery and Under the Dome. Misery was good, and I didn’t like Under the Dome.

              I watched the movie version of IT after I read the book, and it was terrible! I think it would be great if it were re-done with today’s special effects; it would be much scarier! (I read the book when I was ~13 and would only read it in the living room and not too late into the night because it was so vivid and creepy)

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    1. I hear ya. Maybe SK feels he needs to make his books so long because it was so successful for him in the past? But not all of his books need to be that long…this one included, but it was still a decent story.

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