11/22/63

I really really want to review it, but . . . anybody noticed that I only tend to do write-ups for books that are either problematic (or offensive to my delicate sensibilities) or that I can use a step to get up on my soapbox? And King’s 11/22/63, it’s just a solid, well-told, strongly-written book. And, if we’re to believe the sign-off at the end, a book written in, what, six weeks? I mean, I’m usually not intimidated by how fast somebody else can kick a book out — more like challenged — but I’m sure this book has a lot of pages. I hit it on Kindle, but even there I could tell this was higher than the usual page-count.

Anyway, to not review it, let me just say that I think it’s his best since Lisey’s Story. Not that I didn’t dig Duma Key and Under the Dome and whatever else there’s been, but this one, I don’t know. It seemed to matter to him in a different way. That unmagic date, I mean, JFK, it all meant so much more to his generation than to mine (I’m born eight years and two months post-Dallas, I think. meaning Challenger is my JFK). But, even though time-travel should definitely allow him to get mired down in the quicksands of nostalgia — nope. He makes 1958 real, but he doesn’t slather it with the sentimental.

And, his language this time around, his word choice, it’s as on as I’ve ever seen him. And the story — I mean, sure, even twenty percent in you can sketch out how it’s going to end, what that closing scene’s going to look like, but still, it’s a testament to his storytelling that he absolutely keeps us hooked, keeps us reading. And nevermind that this is basically that wonderful “Wikihistory” story via Final Destination. Still and nevertheless, King gets us so invested in the outcome of each scene, each line of development, that you want to cheat, you want to turn ahead, or call in, vote the ending better, who cares if it makes a good story, you care about these people.

He’s been doing this a while, I mean. And there’s nobody better. This week I could have read either this or 1Q84. So glad I chose this. And, by way of non-review, here’s the movies (and tv) 11/22/63 puts me in mind of.

  • That “Stitch in Time” episode of the new Outer Limits.
  • The theatrical cut of The Butterfly Effect. Goes without saying. And I guess this includes the Bradbury story King mentions, “A Sound of Thunder.”
  • The “Time and Punishment” episode of The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror V.” This is the cautionary tale at its best.
  • 12 Monkeys. Of course. Unlike the rest of the cool world, though, I’ve never understood what’s supposed to be so excellent about “La Jetee.” Or, 12 Monkeys is just so much cooler. At least to me.
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure(s). Especially this part.
  • Groundhog Day. Any day that starts with Sonny & Cher, it can’t be bad, right?
  • Retroactive. Not just one of my favorite time-travel stories, but one of my favorite-ever movies. Streaming on Netflix (this is the second DVD I ever bought, I like the movie so much [first: Lost Highway]).
  • Quantum Leap. I just rewatched most of these. And they’re just as good. If not for Dr. Sam Beckett, we’d have never got Elvis, Buddy Holly, everything else (and, okay, that’s a way sappy video tribute I linked. but, c’mon. I miss him).
  • Hot Tub Time Machine. Because it starts here? Quite possibly. I’ve played dashboard piano to “Home Sweet Home” so many times as well, and, man: to have a Trans-Am like that. That’s always been my main dream (except Bandit black). Also, if you wonder why I don’t write movie reviews for that paper I was writing for for a while, it could have something to do with me listing this (and Machete) in my ‘film critic’ top ten. But I stand by it.
  • Finally, Heaven Can Wait, the Warren Beatty one. Which isn’t technically time travel, I know. But it is. The story dynamic, what allows that magic at the end, that recognition: if that isn’t time travel, I don’t know what is (this?). And, of all of these, this one is the one most in line with 11/22/63, I think. I find it difficult to accept that King didn’t have this somewhere in mind while writing it, anyway.

Anyway, for a way more complete list of time travel movies, click here. Looks like I forgot to put Triangle on my list, yep. And Philadelphia Experiment. But THEY forgot Buckaroo Bonzai, so maybe all’s fair. But, really, 11/22/63, that’s all you need for your December time-travel needs. It’s King at his absolute best, and a book that’s just a joy to read.

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  • well said, Stephen. i really loved this book too. now you can read my review at Litreactor! ha. let me know what you think of 1Q84 too. been eyeballing that one, big fan of his.