Stephen King is a master of multi-genre fiction – 11/22/63 might just be the epitome. He has written a ton of books of which I had read a handful and liked them very much – but I say with conviction that this book is the best of all that I have read so far. It’s a blend of all elements that make up fiction. It’s mix of sci-fi with horror is really well blended, and also prompt to give nightmares to those that can’t quite put it out of their mind. But still, I think Stephen King managed to infuse subtle – but certain – humor into this macabre and desolate story about a hanging-in-the-distance bleak, dystopian future.
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Coming to the story, Al Templeton is a cook at a diner and he finds this portal/”rabbit hole” that could transport him to a different time in the past. Precisely to a specific date and time in the year 1958, the current year in the story being 2011. He initially uses this to buy cheaper goods for his diner but eventually gets to bigger ideas like saving/rescuing people from dying – by altering history. He aims to find out the truth behind who killed Jack Kennedy on 11/22/63 and stop it from happening. He does rigorous research on the topic but because “the past has a way of fighting change” ,he gets diagnosed with lung cancer. And also he is an old man. So he enlists his loyal customer – a high school English teacher – Jake Epping to the task. He provides him with money, resources to set himself up as George Amberson in the past.
This Stephen King novel was subsequently adapted into a Hulu miniseries starring James Franco as Jack Epping. I personally loved it even though I watched the show before starting the novel which I’ve only done with Gone Girl. Order the Blu-ray of 11.22.63 now from Amazon by clicking on the cover below:
Unexpected and fatalistic events occur whenever George tries to change an event from the past – but he persists through great pain/effort to divert multiple events from their natural course. The biggest of all being – stopping a lunatic,self deluded socialist Lee Oswald from killing JFK. He does it with all the good intentions in his heart/soul. But when he comes back to the land of future,what does he find? Has the change he made been worth it? What if the past wants to stick to itself for a good reason? While trying to follow Lee Oswald and his family around during the days leading up to the assassination, George meets a woman Sadie whom he falls in love with. Their story is a tale of unconditional and selfless love that stirs tears at the corner of eyes.
A fantastic novel- especially the last 20% of the book had my heart pounding hard. It was thrilling to the core – how he would portray the alternate reality – once he had changed the past from what it should be. On the negative side, I felt incredulous that Jake Epping, a mere 35ish guy would/could handle/react to situations he was put into – with such maturity,selflessness and wisdom. Even though it’s Jake Epping who’s the hero – it was Stephen King himself who portrayed the part in my head as I was reading through – flipping page after page feeling increasingly certain that I am taking a peak into the soul of a person whom life has taught lessons of love/pain/suffering and acceptance.
The Rating: 4.5 out of 5.