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VINE VOICEon November 15, 2011
"11/22/63", Stephen King's latest, might just be his greatest. Seriously. At least as far as "mainstream" fiction or "literature" goes. Yes, it is built around a well-used SF trope, time travel, but really, the portal to the past that Jake Epping is shown in the back of an aluminum diner is only the launch mechanism for this fantastic journey. There are no monsters here, at least none that aren't human, and little or no horror in the supernatural sense that King's constant readers have come to know, love and expect. Even SK's other "straight" fiction, "Misery", "Dolores Claiborne" and "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" come to mind, had elements of the supernatural and/or flat-out horror. Not this time.

But that doesn't mean that 11/22/63 is boring. Quite the contrary. Although it might seem that it would be tough to build suspense around a conclusion that seems to be inevitable, this turns out not to be the case. Big time. I just finished playing hooky from work for a day when I read the last 400 pages non-stop (except for a couple of bathroom breaks), because I just couldn't stop. I just kept pressing the advance button on my Kindle.

The adjective that first comes to mind in describing 11/22/63 among SK's oeuvre is, oddly enough, "mature". I have read every novel and anthology that King has published, plus a large number of single short stories, starting with "Carrie" in a borrowed paperback back in the late 1970s. I have never before thought of describing his work in any of them, many good, some great and a few clunkers (some of which I have reviewed as such), as mature. But that is the first, best word that comes to mind in describing 11/22/63. There were others too; exciting, romantic, bittersweet and, as with all SK's stuff, well-written.

Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination were obviously very well-researched, clear from the details in the text even before one gets to the afterword that describes some of the sources and methods used. The lead-up to the day of the assassination is described in great detail, along with Oswald's relationship to his family and associates, all matters of historical record (at least according to the sources cited by SK, with which most of the readers who did not like the novel disagreed emphatically). But I should point out that the facts concerning the Kennedy assassination are actually not the main focus of the novel.

The world of 1958-1963 is described in wonderful detail, through the eyes of Jake as he gradually sheds his early 21st century armored shell and falls in love with a small Texas town and Sadie, its new young librarian. Their love story is the centerpiece of the novel and is told with great depth, sensitivity and believability. I'm old enough to have experienced lots of the stuff that Jake encounters in 1958 (albeit as a child) and it jives with and jogs my recollections and induces a feeling of longing for older, simpler times. For King''s "Constant Readers", there are easter egg cameos from "It" and "The Langoliers" that I recognized. Knowing SK, there may well be others.

The ending is not predictable (if you say you saw it all coming you are either lying or should be a best-selling novelist) and is surprisingly satisfying. To those who say King doesn't know how to end his novels, I say, read this one.

Very Highly Recommended for all (even those who think they know but don't "like" Stephen King).

J.M. Tepper
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Stephen King is, simply put, a master. He does what he does, and he does it so well. I am woefully under read when it comes to his bibliography, but I am aware that he doesn't always nail it. But man, I think he nailed it here. Having not read King since finishing the Dark Tower, I was all too ready to fall back into one of his tales.

11/22/63 is a novel about a time-traveler named Jake Epping who attempts to travel back and stop the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I think that if you've heard of the book, and have even an inkling of an idea what it's about, you know that it's about that (so I don't feel like I'm spoiling anything there). Now, as big of an undertaking as that is, imagine you had to do it while the obdurate past was against you. Constantly pushing back against any unwelcome changes to its linear history. That is what Jake must face. And along the way he meets a plethora of diverse and dynamic characters, visits many interesting cities and towns in Maine, Florida, Texas, and even falls in love. I was touched enough by the ending to shed a tear, and that typically leads to a five-star rating from me.

I imagine that I'll be thinking back on this story for some time to come. The past harmonizes after all.
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on December 19, 2011
The cold war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, gasoline at 30 cents a gallon: these were realities of life if you were born in the early 1950s. I was 13 when JFK was shot. I remember like yesterday the teacher coming to my science class room and talking to our teacher at the door. Then our teacher announced to us that "President Kennedy has died. He was shot today in Dallas, Texas." Our teacher was Canadian and he went right on with the lesson. My most vivid memory of the days that followed is Kennedy's son John-John raising his hand in salute as the coffin passes him. My mom and sister both burst into tears. (Yes, for you younger folks, that was the John Kennedy that was killed in a plane crash in 1999.)

King brought all these memories to life for me in 11/22/63, the story of a man from 2011 that goes back to 1958 to try to stop the Kennedy assasination in 1963. I am a King fan and this will not take the place of my number one novel, The Stand, but it comes close. Sometimes I couldn't put it down and sometimes I couldn't go on reading because of all the memories.

Everything is in this story: romance, suspense, history, science fiction, not to mention what makes King excel over other popular writers of the day. That, in my opinion, is his ability to weave themes into a story that re-occur and tie the story together emotionally. One example from this book, "the past harmonizes." There is nothing of the supernatural here yet the function of the supernatural is replaced by the weird and intriguing idea that the past does not want to change.

Another example is the dancing theme. Dancing occurs at several points in the story and forms the thread for Sadie's words in the end, "How we danced." Even as I write this, those words cause my chest to grip.

Some say that King's biggest strength is his story telling. I disagree. King is a great story teller. Yet, his biggest strength is his ability to make us care about the characters. Even Marina Oswald, whose name is all but lost in history, comes alive to us as she struggles with being an outsider trapped in a marriage to an abusive lunatic.

Ultimately this story is a romance. Didn't someone once say that "it is always about the girl?" Jake and Sadie had me smiling and tearing up and thinking about the romances in my life, good and not so good (is romance ever really bad?). I am not a fast reader or a "long session reader". An hour at a time is my usual. But the last 200 pages or so kept me reading for most of one evening and I then stopped with 20 pages to go because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Jake and Sadie. I woke up at 4:00 AM the next morning and read the last 20 pages as well as the end material. Then my eyes water up. Sorry, I am a 61 year old guy and, unlike Jake, I do cry.

So, thanks again, Stephen for your dedication to your readers, your hard research and your imagination. I was swept away by this story.
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on June 7, 2017
Jun 07, 2017
Susan Watters Mumford rated it
it was amazing

I took my time reading this book because I wanted to pay attention! I was in utero when JFK was assassinated. For me, there is no "I remember exactly where I was" when he was shot moment. As usual, Stephen King does a bang up job of bringing you up close and personal to the action. Granted, this is a time-travel tale in which he took certain liberties with history, but he did keep it as close to reality as possible.

I was full on emotional at some points with tears rolling down my face, which honest to the Big Guy, really is no surprise while reading a King book. He doesn't do a whole lotta love, but the love angle was quite touching, Honey.

Jake Epping ~ George Amberson was an admirable hero. He just melded into the story like one of my big brothers. Easy to trust, like, talk to, maintained a cool-head. Smooth, Honey.

Loved Sadie. I am NOT tall, but I fall UP stairs. I am NOT graceful, but I trip over a SHADOW. I am NOT bizarre, but I believe in DREAMS, Honey!

I abhorred Lee Harvey Oswald. Really? Why would I? He is of no consequence to my life now, then, ever. But, I did. I hated that sniveling little bastard. Not for the reason the whole world hates him - for assassinating JFK. I hated him for laying hands upon his wife. I did not have one drop of sympathy for the fool.

Loved the book. Loved the story. Always love Mr. King's writing. Loved the ending, Honey. Glad you listened to Joe.
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VINE VOICEon October 7, 2016
This is a really good novel, just short of a great one. King has created a fantastic and unique time travel mechanic, which really throws a different spin on what we usually run into in time travel stories, and even has a twist near the end that causes the reader along with the protagonist to change the way they had learned to look at things. The historical content is well-researched, immersive and detailed. King's protagonist is a relatable and interesting character, and many of the other characters are splendidly fleshed-out and memorable. Some Stephen King stories are definitely a skeleton, filled out with some tropes and an interesting or weird central theme. This one feels like he worked harder to create an extremely robust story.

Only one thing tempered my appreciation of this story, and that was its length. This book is huge! I started out reading it quite voraciously, and it speedily took off and went at a great pace. However, like the protagonist, who must wait several years to accomplish what he went to the past to do, I felt like I had to slog through a long period of life events, all of them good and many of them even electrifying, but the sheer bulk of time and events that passed between the beginning of the adventure and its end did wear on me. I actually put the book down for several months, although it was easy enough to pick it back up once an opportune camping trip gave me time to sit back and read, and I was once again hooked through the end. Honestly, I feel like any author less prolific and venerable than King would have been advised to cut a quarter of the book. Now, when I look at the content I would personally remove as extraneous, I realize that some characters and events which I quite enjoyed reading about would have to go, but I think it would still improve the novel overall.

I don't doubt that many bookworms, and Stephen King aficionados, would disagree with me about the book's length, and to them I say congratulations on having that much time and undivided attention for this book. I did enjoy it very much, would even say it captivated me with a spell the likes of which only King can dream up, but it was a serious venture to go from cover to cover. Very worth doing, however.
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on August 21, 2017
I enjoyed this book. Read it 90 days ago. More than anything the methods of travel and the nuances of time management are really fascinating. I felt that the character was both brash and at the same time would not take risks that I felt would be plausible. This book has so much to offer, history told with depth of experience in a time before I was born that felt tangible, not foreign, but deeply respectful and with character that you can chew on. Romance, fear, race, hate, love, secrets and spys... This is set in a time before "devices" a simpler life, a rougher life, a dirtier life, a harder life. A great read. The story picks up pace towards the end. It's the experience that has stuck with me. I walk around noticing how modern our world is now, I'm thankful.
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on January 22, 2018
I read this a while back. The rating was done just after finishing it.
I had, at the time, pretty much given up on King -- the movies based on his books tend to be much better than the books -- except, of course, when they are not. But too many books turned out, on re-reading, to be ... disappointing.
This is a time-travel story about an attempt to prevent the assassination of Kennedy.
It actually succeeds at one point -- but the result is a disaster of the sort shown in /Back to the Future II/.
Ultimately, it becomes meditation on the advisability of accepting history for what it is.
Certainly, the men who try to guard the past would have an easier time of it if we did!
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on April 23, 2015
Hello, My name is Gwyneth and I'm a Librarian.
When I say that this is one of the best books I've read in 10 years I'm dead serious.

As serious as Jack Epping is when he travels back and forth doggedly to tries to change events and "right wrongs" in the past. But, as Jack finds out "the past is obdurate." The past doesn't WANT to be changed. It fights it, painfully.

The wonder, beauty, sorrow and suspense in this book...the very nuances of this story had me on the metaphorical edge of my seat. I read it on the plane, I read it until 2am the night before a big speaking engagement in Palm Springs. I read it while walking - gingerly through the airport. I finally finished and had the urge to start all over again. I read these 866 pages in a flurry over a few days while traveling on business.

Sometimes, when stories are SO good and you're SO invested in the characters, you hurriedly RUSH through the pages. My fingers were a sliding blur on my iPad whipping left, left, left. Wanting to know what's happening next, next and then next. This book did not disappoint.

Twists, turns, and clever "Kingian" Easter eggs abound, this is not the usual time travel trope novel ...this is a must read and then....a must re-read. My favourite book of ALL time is Time and Again by Jack Finney. This...this is pretty damn close. That's saying a lot.

Hi, I'm Gwyneth, I'm The Daring Librarian, and I approve of this book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon April 25, 2016
While I love some of Steven King's work, i.e. Shawshank Redemption and The Running Man, I was never a fan of the gore and horror genre his name is mostly associated with so read few of his 50 bestsellers. I happened to stumble across a reviewer of this book who wrote that it was possibly the best book he had ever read, and while that sounded like hyperbole, it still was high praise from a fan who listed an extensive reading list. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and the prospect of Mr. King's supreme talent in a historical context, especially with the controversial conspiracy theories that never die, coupled with the premise of traveling back in time through a hidden wormhole tucked in the back of a greasy spoon diner, had the makings of an intriguing read, even at 850 pages! Without giving a long detailed review, more astute readers have done here so eloquently, all I can say is that I was blown away on every level. the main characters are so deeply developed that I really felt I knew them and cared about them. The unexpected plot twists were sometimes wrenching and left me feeling stunned. There's an existential perspective of the paradoxes potentially created in the prospect of changing the past, no matter how well meaning. There's a love story woven in and complex and conflicted relationships. If you're not particularly a Steven King fan, attracted by the rave reviews of this book but leery of a horror/gore oriented writer, do not hesitate. Borrow, check out, download or buy this book. You will not regret it. An amazing gift to readers. I hated to see it end and promptly ordered another King book, On Writing, to learn more about the man and his life and writing advise and expertise.
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on April 4, 2016
Stephen King is of my era and most of us of that time have and do speculate on how the world would be different if JFK had not been assassinated. Most of us look at that prospect with rose colored glasses. Stephen King, of course, goes to the dark side.

It is, in the end, after all the efforts to stop that horrible event in history, a love story. A love story of incredible sacrifice. Yes, it is very long. It will bring back the colors, feel, naivete and texture of the early sixties. The dress, the cars, the nostalgia for another time past and a singular tragic event that changed the course of history. It is worth your time.
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