Stephen King 11/22/63 - part 1


I'm sure I've been here before.

I used to be an avid Stephen King reader, and I'm glad to see he's back on form.  This book  is every much as classic King as Tommyknockers, It, The Stand, Christine or, my personal favourite, Needful Things.  I'm halfway through and, considering the length of his novels, I'm going to write a review of the first half and then - when I've finished part 2 write a review of that.

Stephen King can be considered at the opposite end of the spectrum from Phillip K Dick.  Phillip K Dick's problem is that whilst he writes amazing ideas into his stories, everything else sucks.  His characterisation is weak, the dialogue is soap opera - but the originality and vision is first rate.  King can't do great ideas, but he can spin a great yarn around any given scenario.  Hence why it's rare to see a King novel translate into a decent film, it's his writing that is so great - not the ideas behind it; and why it frequently feels like there's a big grab bag of old horror plots that King chooses from every six months.

This is emphasised by this being the second time round that he's written a novel about someone who knows the future.  One of the better King movie adaptations was from his 70s novel The Dead Zone, where a coma victim wakes up with  precognition.  This time it's Stephen King's frequent everyone persona - the English teacher and would-be novelist from Maine ("Write about what you know") - who discovers a portal into the past and is able to use his knowledge of the future to change it.

Again, there's strong hints that the ending will strongly resemble The Dead Zone - the protagonist aims to prevent the Kennedy assassination on 22nd November 1963 (hence the title).  So far it would appear he's going to shoot Oswald before he can gun down the president, whereas The Dead Zone culminates with the protagonist attempting to shoot a would-be senator who's later presidency includes him launching nuclear war.

Now I'm only half way through, and there's a number of subplots that are only moderately interesting padding out the 4 years between the character's arrival in 1950s New England and the Kennedy assassination.  And that is annoying me, I'm wishing (despite it being well and thrillingly written) that he missed out these subplots.  King can write great short stories, as his early collections show, but as he's aged his novels get longer and longer without becoming any more jaw-dropping awesome.

But so far, if it's holiday reading you're after - definitely a better alternative to Dan Brown.

11/22/63 is almost certainly available from your local supermarket.  Eternal Walkabout's seedling bonsai tree has just sprouted the second series of branches.

Your Reply