Friday November 22,1963
I just finished reading ’11/22/63′ Stephen King’s new mega novel. (849 pages) Perhaps you’ve seen the ad on TV showing a smiling JFK and Jackie waving to the crowd as they follow the motorcade route into Dealey Plaza The picture freezes on Kennedy and the voice over begins, “On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back?” What if indeed? That brief advertisement really got its hooks into me, being both a JFK history buff and a King fan, I knew I’d be reading the new book real soon.
The premise of the novel is quite simple, a time traveler goes into the past to try and prevent the Kennedy assassination. Think about it, What if somehow through the magic of science or a quirk of nature someone could go back to that fateful Friday and alter the course of history by preventing Kennedy’s assassination. Can you imagine How different the future might be if President Kennedy had not been shot and killed in Dallas that fateful Friday? Would the course of history have been altered? Would Kennedy have been re-elected for a second term in 64? Would he have gotten us entrenched in Vietnam or would the war have been avoided? What would the civil rights movement have looked like? Could his not being assassinated have caused a ripple effect sparing the lives of Martin Luther King or Bobby Kennedy five years later? Would another Kennedy be in office for eight more years? the possibilities are endless.
But this is not the path Stephen King chose to take in his novel. It is not a story about a major tragedy being averted and the resulting changes that occur. In fact King doesn’t even pursue specific or immediate changes and spends only a few pages describing how the world of 2011 has been altered by the saving of Kennedy’s. King, best known as a horror fiction writer has chosen a different approach instead. ’11/22/63′ is no horror story. There is nothing supernatural, no vampires, werewolves, demonic trucks or killer clowns. Wait that’s not entirely true, references are made to a killer clown, as well as other references to some characters and locations from his other novels. The only elements of horror contained in ’11/22/63′ are horrors of the human kind, created by hatred, resentment, prejudice and fear. No, what King has written here is a love story, a love story of grand design, filled with warmth and tenderness set against a backdrop of time travel and the Kennedy assassination.
Personally I would have preferred for King to have focused more on the effects saving Kennedy had on our history, both immediately after the assassination attempt and the ensuing decades, leading up to the present. Actually that is what I expected him to focus on.. Was I disappointed in King’s approach to the story, not in the least. Not only was it a great read, I believe it’s one of his best works.
King has published 49 novels to date as well as 9 short story collections. Of all his work I have long considered ‘The Stand’ to be my all time favorite King novel. It is the classic battle of good versus evil brought about by the accidental release of ‘Captain Tripps’ a deadly flu virus that wipes out nearly the entire world population and sets up a showdown between the epitome of evil Randall Flagg against the good and righteous Mother Abigail. If you’ve never read it I highly recommend it. Second on my list is ‘The Shining,’ followed by two of his short story collections: ‘Different Seasons’ and ‘Skeleton Crew’. Rounding out my top 5 would be ‘It” the tale of the killer clown. I believe ’11/22/63’ ranks right up there with these 5 outstanding King works.
King once said in an interview that he wasn’t very good at writing about love and intimacy, perhaps all those years ago when the remark was made it may have been true, but not any longer “11/22/63” is a romance for the ages and proves that he can definitely spin a compelling tale of love into his work, and do it well. If you like King’s sci-fi writing and you enjoy romance 11/22/63 is a must read.