11/22/63 by Stephen King
Kirkus Star

11/22/63

KIRKUS REVIEW

King (Under the Dome, 2009, etc.) adds counterfactual historian to his list of occupations.

Well, not exactly: The author is really turning in a sturdy, customarily massive exercise in time travel that just happens to involve the possibility of altering history. Didn’t Star Trek tell us not to do that? Yes, but no matter: Up in his beloved Maine, which he celebrates eloquently here (“For the first time since I’d topped that rise on Route 7 and saw Dery hulking on the west bank of the Kenduskeag, I was happy”), King follows his own rules. In this romp, Jake Epping, a high-school English teacher (vintage King, that detail), slowly comes to see the opportunity to alter the fate of a friend who, in one reality, is hale and hearty but in another dying of cancer, no thanks to a lifetime of puffing unfiltered cigarettes. Epping discovers a time portal tucked away in a storeroom—don’t ask why there—and zips back to 1958, where not just his friend but practically everyone including the family pets smokes: “I unrolled my window to get away from the cigarette smog a little and watched a different world roll by.” A different world indeed: In this one, Jake, a sort of sad sack back in Reality 1, finds love and a new identity in Reality 2. Not just that, but he now sees an opportunity to unmake the past by inserting himself into some ugly business involving Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, various representatives of the military-industrial-intelligence complex and JFK in Dallas in the fall of 1963. It would be spoiling things to reveal how things turn out; suffice it to say that any change in Reality 2 will produce a change in Reality 1, not to mention that Oswald may have been a patsy, just as he claimed—or maybe not. King’s vision of one outcome of the Kennedy assassination plot reminds us of what might have been—that is, almost certainly a better present than the one in which we’re all actually living. “If you want to know what political extremism can lead to,” warns King in an afterword, “look at the Zapruder film.”

Though his scenarios aren’t always plausible in strictest terms, King’s imagination, as always, yields a most satisfying yarn.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4516-2728-2
Page count: 864pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2011




2011 BEST OF FICTION: THE COMPLETE LIST:

FictionLAST MAN IN TOWER by Aravind Adiga
by Aravind Adiga
FictionUNTIL THE DAWN'S LIGHT by Aharon Appelfeld
by Aharon Appelfeld
FictionTHE SENSE OF AN ENDING by Julian Barnes
by Julian Barnes
FictionONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS YOU by Elizabeth Berg
by Elizabeth Berg
FictionTHE SLY COMPANY OF PEOPLE WHO CARE by Rahul Bhattacharya
by Rahul Bhattacharya
MysteryNOW YOU SEE ME by S.J. Bolton
by S.J. Bolton

MORE BY STEPHEN KING

FictionREVIVAL by Stephen King
by Stephen King
FictionMR. MERCEDES by Stephen King
by Stephen King
FictionDOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King
by Stephen King

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionTOP DOWN by Jim Lehrer
by Jim Lehrer
FictionEDGE OF ETERNITY by Ken Follett
by Ken Follett
FictionTHE WATCHERS by Jon Steele
by Jon Steele
NonfictionJACQUELINE KENNEDY by Caroline Kennedy
by Caroline Kennedy