When I heard that Stephen King was coming out with a book called 11/22/63, my heart jumped for joy. In case you aren’t aware, I am fascinated with the Kennedys, but the uncertainty over the assassination is what most piques my interest.
When I read the premise, I was even more excited. You know who was tasked with preventing Kennedy from dying? An English teacher! In case you aren’t aware, I used to be an English teacher.
On Christmas morning I unwrapped this massive 850-pager, much to my delight, and started reading it somewhere around January 2nd. I just finished it last week. Slow reader, yes, but there was also about a month and a half when I barely read at all because my employment situation kind of exploded.
Just to warn you, this post is about to get really weird. Why? Because you’re about to watch a video of a dinosockosaurus (aka Frank) review this book for you. Oh yes.
You’ll forgive him if he seems a bit scatterbrained. This is his first time on camera. Allow me to answer a few questions for you ahead of time:
1. Yes, I made Frankasockosaurus.
2. No, I’m not sure what exactly his accent is or why it changes so often.
2a. No, we don’t hate Canadians. Duh! One of our favorite readers lives in Canada! Frank just meant that maybe he’ll have a Canadian accent in his next video (and let’s be honest, it will be totally botched anyway).
So without further ado, I give you…. Frank’s review of 11/22/63 by Stephen King.
In addition to what I, ahem, Frank said in the video, I want to add a few points here.
Basic premise: English teacher Jake Epping is asked by a dying diner-owner to take a walk down the wormhole in the back of his stockroom. Jake travels back in time to 1958, assumes the identity of George Amberson, and has to build a life for himself in the past until he can save JFK from being assassinated. Along the way, he falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, who is technically about 40 years older than he is, though when they meet in the past, he is older than she is. But can he save Kennedy? Can he bring Sadie back to the future? Dun-dun-dun.
Overall, I liked this book. I didn’t feel like I was reading it just to get through it, but in many cases, I felt really let down. For example, pretty early on, the idea of this thing called a Jimla is introduced. For about 700 pages, there’s this huge air of mystery and suspense. The Jimla is presented as this thing to be feared.
When I found out what the Jimla was (actually, I didn’t even really find out. It was hurriedly and indirectly defined — literally with shrugged shoulders — at the end), I wanted to get in my car, drive to Maine, and smack Stephen King with this 850 page book. I’m not kidding: on at least two occasions, I had nightmares about all of the things my imagination thought the Jimla might be. I developed an unnatural suspicion toward my cousin, whose nickname is Jimler, for a while. What an enormous let-down at the end of the book. I expected more out of that storyline.
I was fine with all of the characters except for the main character, Jake/George. I found him to be somehow inauthentic, like in some cases his voice was forced. In the Afterword, which, by the way, I loved, King says that he started writing this book in the 70s, but it was all still so fresh that he had to wait. I’m wondering if parts of the manuscript were from then with modern-day references kind of plopped in there, because sometimes that’s what it felt like. But only with the main character. It got a lot better as the book went on, but it made it really difficult for me to believe this character at the beginning, and that kind of stuck with me throughout.
Then again, perhaps we’re not supposed to trust him. But what lacked authenticity for me didn’t seem related to whether he was or was not trustworthy as far as the plot goes.
And, okay, I rolled my eyes at character names like “Mike Coslaw” and “Bobbi Jill Allnut” — both of whose last names looked like King glanced around his kitchen and ever-so-slightly altered coleslaw and walnuts to make last names. It pleased me to see him at least address the coleslaw later in the book.
I almost stopped reading entirely when Sadie turns to George and asks point-blank , “Are you from the future?” I slammed the book shut, yelling out, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?” loudly enough to wake the dogs. By that point I was already invested, so I kept reading.
All in all, I was neither satisfied nor totally dissatisfied. It was a decent read, but it didn’t meet my expectations. It just made me wonder how many people babble on about SK being so great merely because the masses make them feel like they should. The guy churns out books like nobody’s business, and while I’m sure some of them are quite good (I share Frank’s terror when it comes to clowns, especially after reading IT), art for art’s sake does not art make. I remain a skeptic.
The Afterword, however, I found to be fascinating (and quite well written in a totally authentic voice). It was all about his research of the Kennedys and Dallas and so on. He mentions the books that he recommends, which is gold for someone like me.
My rating: 3/5 stars. But, as LeVar Burton used to say, you don’t have to take my word for it. (I worshiped Reading Rainbow as a kid.) If you’ve read this book, what were your thoughts? Do you think Stephen King is overrated, underrated, perfectly rated? Did you love or hate Frank’s vlogging debut? I need to knooowwww!
Bonus! If you loved Frank’s video, check out this “screenshot” clip of him jamming out.