My favorite King works have always been his stories more about people than about Horror.
This is my favorite Stephen King book of all.
Naval Air Corps - (DC3, C118, P2V Neptune) 1965 - 1970
Normally, I am not a fanatical fan of all Stephen Kings works because I don't enjoy dark and scary. However, this story drew me in, held me and delivered me right to the front door of WOW. It was interesting to Google Map the many addresses mentioned in the story while listening. I am ex-military and an old crusty kind of guy. I wan't exactly "crying" at the ending of the story; its closer to say my eyes were "glistening" while wearing a happy smile.
Canadian girl in Kansas, love audible, books on kindle or kindle fire, and old fashioned books! I enjoy fiction most, mostly books with strong female leads. Favourite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Wally Lamb, Pat Conroy, Andre Dubus III, Lisa Genova, many more!
I absolutely loved every part of this story. The flow, the characters, the whole idea of the time travel, the romance, the suspense.. This book has every aspect of a fantastic book all made into one story. I have read about every single book by Stephen King and I absolutely loved this book best. The narration was perfect. The suspense in Wasson's voice, his infliction, his entire performance was incredible. I didn't want it to end.
Of course the main character was my favourite, the narrator of the story. He was just an average joe, who made decisions with his heart.
I think my favourite scene was probably the climax where we do not know if Kennedy will be saved or killed. The idea of time working against the characters was so compelling and exciting- it was very very dramatic.
I think the whole overall message of the book moved me. The point was that, everything happens for a reason. What reason though- we may never know. It's hard to say much without giving away the book!
King's best, most suspenseful novel to date- with excellent narration! Fantastic audible book!
So, I confess: I started and stopped reading Stephen King after a single short story scared me witless in the 70s. But this book got such good reviews, and was billed as "speculative fiction", I succumbed and bought it. Also, I'm a sucker for really long audiobooks, since I go for really long walks in the early morning. Apparently, horror is just part of his DNA, because I couldn't really listen to it, all by myself on deserted streets on pitch black, windy mornings -- you just never know when his Norman Rockwell Americana will abruptly turn terrifying. Save it for gardening or housework. But anyway -- a great, great read. This is a complicated story, it involves time travel (which always makes my head hurt), lots and lots of characters, lots of researched detail, lots of plot -- but he keeps it all spinning, never dropping the narrative thread, with nary a cardboard character and always a sense of compassion. His hero IS a hero, but utterly believable. Stephen King is a better writer and storyteller than Stieg Larsson on every possible dimension, including writing in Swedish.
Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.
The past is obdurate, the past harmonizes, the butterfly effect are all theories you will not forget once you finish King’s 11/22/63. A very elaborate “Back to the Future”, King tells the story of Jake Epping, a school teacher, who's been picked by his friend Al to save JFK. Through the rabbit hole in the pantry of Al’s diner, Jake disappears armed to change past events, but no matter how long he’s gone, only two minutes pass when he returns to 2011.
Jake goes by the name George Amberson when he leaves 2011. King’s theories and rendition of time travel almost make is plausible. His writing is easy and the elaborate story is saturated with interesting, likeable and unusual characters. Before he delves into stopping the JFK assassination, he first tries out time travel by going back to help the janitor at his school, Harry Dunning, who’s lived a tragic life. Lots of research went into this novel, the era, Lee Harvey Oswald’s family and associates and the assassination itself. Through George, King makes you feel like you’re part of it all. He weaves in a great romance as well, adding depth to the already complex story. This is only my second King novel. I can’t believe the first one, Duma Key, was written by the same person. Interesting premise, well told, highly recommended.
Craig Wasson did an amazing narration. I’ve listened to over 200 books and this narration was definitely in the top 5.
The Dragon Mother
I always wondered what it would be like if Stephen King wrote a Historical Fiction, Romance, Time Travel novel. Not really, but it was fun to take this journey with him.
Jake Epping has the chance to go back in time and change history. The thing he will be trying to change will be the assignation of JFK. But the time portal isn’t an exact thing. It only goes back to the year 1958, so he will have to ‘hang out’ until 1963. So what does a teacher do for 5 years while he is waiting around? Research all he can about Lee Harvey Oswald, teach school, and fall in love, what else?
I enjoyed all the time period references, like the fact that everyone smoked and how inexpensive everything was. (Not that I am old enough to remember!) I thought it was funny when he would slip up and use some 2011 slang or sing modern songs.
I wondered if Jake was even going to feel like going back to his own time once he got all settled into 1960’s. Sure we have all the conveniences like cell phones and internet, but they had honesty and respect.
I felt the book was a bit long, but who would really tell someone like Stephen King, ‘Hey, you have to shorten this up or no one will read it.’ LoL
I have noticed that there is a love/hate thing going on with reviewers over the ending. I loved the ending.
The Narration Review
I thought Craig Wasson did a great job narrating this story. I think he nailed the voices and sentiments of the characters just as Stephen King meant them to be read. I enjoyed hearing the New England accent and the funny pauses JFK used to use when he gave speeches.
I have several Stephen King books in my audible library and have enjoyed some more than others. My favorites tend to be the more "plausible" such as Dolores Claiborne. 11-22-63 sets a new benchmark for SK! My criteria for a good audio book has always been a story that pulls me in right away, one that keeps my interest and one that has a good narrator. This book has all 3 and lots of food for thought as well.
To start with, I was into the story immediately and was loathe to turn off my iPod for anything other than a great story. The narrator told the story rather than reading it. There was so much I didn't know about the era that piqued my interest. So often a book gets off to a good start but doesn't deliver, but that is not true here. The ending was satisfying as well.
The book will appeal to non-King fans as well. Perhaps his best...
From 4/12/15 on, I will only rate a book 5 stars if it so good I will listen to it again. To date, the Bino series tops that list.
I loved every minute of this book. King is the master character builder and story teller. But he also has a man crush on Jack Kennedy. I've no doubt he researched the novel exhaustively, but his bias gives Kennedy a total pass on his starting the Vietnam Nam war and the Bay of Pigs or even his infidelities, while demeaning other Presidents.
Nevertheless I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this wonderful novel.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
I suspect that if you are big Stephen King fan, you will like this book just fine, but it is far from the most gripping time travel fiction, Kennedy assassination study, or Stephen King novel I have read/heard. Like many famous prolific authors, there seems to be some point where no real editing is done on later books and this is one that suffers from not being more concise and consistent. Not a huge flaw because the book rarely gets boring, it's just that it goes off on some tangents that detract from the primary plot and levels the story at interesting without ever reaching "gripping". The ending is pleasant but not particularly surprising and after such a LONG book, I expected more. One of the things that bothered me the most, may not bother many people - King has much of the setting detail just wrong. Since I grew up in Texas and have lived the last 30 years near Dallas, the errors rubbed me wrong especially because King has a big pat-on-his-own-back for all his research at the end of this audiobook. He might have researched his setting a bit more IMO. Most ridiculous: Repeated references to the smell of oil/gas production/refining (none of that occurring in Dallas or Tarrant Counties until the last decade) and even claiming that you could smell the oil smell coming from the Permian Basin (Midland and Odessa) in Fort Worth when the wind blew from the west. Um, yea, from 300+ miles away, Stephen?? Did you ever check a map? We couldn't even smell the oil wells in Odessa from Midland (where I grew up) which was only 20 miles away. And since the stockyards/meat packing was still huge in Fort Worth in the 60's, I'd guess any bad smells might have been more related to that industry. Made me wonder if his Maine settings were any more on target. One detail that he certainly got nauseatingly right is the pervasive use of tobacco in the 50's/60's - the smoking and smoke that pervades the novel is a truth of the times that I had happily forgotten until listening to this book.
Craig Wasson's narration was OK, but not great. His Maine, deep South, and Texas accents are kind of cartoon versions but acceptable considering that this is all first person narrative so the dialog is actually all just Jake repeating what other people said. However, Wasson does one of the main characters (Sadie) in such an irritating voice that it really detracted from the book for me. He voices this young woman so that she sounds like a pathetic beat-up version of Bill Clinton. The accent is more Arkansas than Georgia and he always makes her sound like she's about ready to pass out even when she is being brave and heroic. Bothered me so much that I couldn't really care about that character at all.
If you love Stephen King, you'll like this. If you want classic time travel romance, try Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson or The Time Traveler's Wife. If you want a really clever turn on time travel reversal of the Kennedy assassination, check out the British sitcom's Red Dwarf Season 7, Episode 1 - a thoughtful, imaginative review of the same issue done well in just 30 minutes.
A few years back, my image of Stephen King was entirely made up of killer clowns and rabid dogs and possessed cars (there’s a thought: Christine as a killer clown car…), the grandpappy of a genre I had absolutely no interest in. I’d read a whole two King novels, one of them because I was forced, and never felt the need to explore further.
I still haven’t read much of his (all those books full of treasure – what a wonderful thought!), but what I have read has made me into a still-astonished fangirl. I mean, I never would have believed that Stephen King could make me cry at work – not “Oh God there’s something under my desk I think it’s a clown” crying but genuinely moved tears. But there I was, surreptitiously wiping my eyes as I listened via Audible. More than once.
He does beautiful, surprising things with words.
“My honors kids were juniors… but they wrote like little old men and little old ladies, all pursey-mouthed and ‘Oo! Don’t slip on that icy patch, Mildred!’”
“…Chased my headlights down Highway 77…”
“No wonder she looked like you could staple a string to the back of her dress and fly her like a kite.”
It’s all of a piece, I thought. It’s an echo so close to perfect you can’t tell which one is the living voice and which is the ghost voice returning. For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dream clock chiming beneath a mystery glass we call life. Behind it, below it, and around it: chaos. Storms. Men with hammers, men with knives. Men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss – surrounding a single lighted stage, where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.
This is writing I want to wrap myself up in forever.
(I made a note of one exquisite line, and I still have to follow up on it: “Scaring people is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.” And I commented that that should be on the King family arms. And then I started wanting very badly to design the King coat of arms. When I find my pencils…)
I feel a bit ashamed of the fact that I’m so surprised at the warm loveliness of some of this. “Of course it went splendidly, as cream pie fights always do.” My God, that whole chapter was a joy that left me a little giddy as a reader and a little awed as a writer.
I love “The Land of Ago”. I adore “Little by slowly”, and am incorporating it into my vocabulary.
And this made, makes me very happy:
“What might that be, Miss Caltrop?” I asked. “Because I’ve got ice cream in here and I’d like to get home before it melts.”
She gave me a chilly smile that could have kept my French vanilla firm for hours.
“That probably should have told me something, but I had too much on my mind. His story was not the least of it. That’s the curse of the reading class: we can be seduced by a good story, even at the least opportune moments.” He is of my people.
“I know life is hard, I think everyone knows that in their hearts, but why does it have to be cruel as well? Why does it have to bite?”
It’s beautiful – and it’s terrifying. There’s no killer clown here, no dog foaming at the mouth, no vampires. Instead there’s something called the Jimla, which in its mystery and in its explanation is deeply unsettling. And there’s a broom, which isn’t what you expect, but which is at least as awful. The writing can have a rather pure simplicity to it – and it just goes to show that you don’t need all that much to create terror if you do it right. “Something was moving around upstairs.” *shudder*
And it’s not just a masterful way with words: his plotting is equally beautiful. The long long buildup makes actually finally getting to 11/22/63 rather like the first day of summer vacation after a long, long school year. It’s not often that the main event of a book is so very far into a long book, and yet suspense is maintained throughout. “Get rid of one wretched waif, buddy, and you could save millions of lives,” said Al Templeton, and it actually gave me chills. Because, come on: this is a cause worthy of Don Quixote. Whatever negatives can be brought against Kennedy, there’s such an aura of mythical unfulfilled promise about him that the whole premise of the book is irresistible, to Jake as well as the reader. Who knows? If Kennedy had lived, we might not have become tangled in Vietnam. We might have had a fuller, longer space program. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. might not have been assassinated. Race relations might have improved faster, more thoroughly. Who knows? He was young, smart … promising. Who knows…
In the long, slow, gorgeous buildup of the book, Stephen King demonstrates that not only is he quite the expert on torturing his characters … he is also very good at torturing his readers. I don’t know when I’ve seen quite so much foreshadowing and “had I but known”: “Things between us might have progressed faster than they did, except for what happened during that halftime.” He uses this device a lot – but he’s so damned good at it, at making the outcome nothing you ever expected no matter how many hints he gave and how much you thought he was telegraphing, that what might elsewhere be an aggravation is, here, just another way of keeping up the suspense.
Al, who went first through time and taught Jake the little he has to work with, explained to him that time is obdurate. (That not-so-common word gets a workout in this book – it’s great.) The timeline as we know it fights any attempts to make changes. But, I thought, maybe all of the delays were to put Al just where he needed to be, not to try to stop him. I sigh for my innocence…
One thing I do wonder a bit is why Jake’s full concentration was on getting rid of Lee Harvey Oswald, the wretched waif, via the one method. He never seems to have considered other possibilities, which might have been a bit simpler and perhaps more foolproof. He also never seems to consider that if he had taken out Oswald earlier it would have prevented the second daughter’s conception. See “butterflies’ wings”, below.
The flapping of butterflies’ wings, that time-honored trope of time travel fiction, is here in full force. Jake avers that he does his best to avoid any extra flapping – but, in what may be the only real flaw I can think of, what Jake doesn’t seem to think of immediately is that his taking this apartment and that, this job and that, even this car and that, kept others from taking them. That’s a pretty significant flap. This doesn’t do to dwell on… In fact, this is the tale of an intelligent man – book smart, street stupid – who goes back in time with next to no preparation and doesn’t do too badly – until he really, really does. At one point I became so irritated with Jake’s ineptitude and what happened to him because of it that images of a scathing review and greyed-out stars in the rating area danced in my mind – and then it hit me. Of course he’s inept. Exactly how ept would anyone, any English teacher from 2011, from Maine or anywhere else, with exactly no time to prepare and no history of any of the kind of behavior George Amberson is forced into – how “ept” could anyone like that be in an alien time and – eventually – place? Of course Jake is inept. That’s kind of the point.
I’m so glad I opted for the Audible edition of this. The narrator, Craig Wasson, often sounds like Jimmy Stewart, which somehow was utterly perfect. Also, there are a lot of creepy things in the world, and one of them is a voice like Jimmy Stewart’s voicing Stephen Kingisms. The janitor’s father – Dunning – sounds like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. (I’m sure I’m missing a connection there.) And there were some pretty darn good Kennedy and Cronkite impersonations, as needed. Also? Chaz is awesome, cuz.
I seem to say this a lot lately, but – I learned a bit from 11/22/63. (For one thing, the mental lapse I’ve always suffered in trying to remember that date is now conquered, with the added bonus that I will always now know the birthday of the cousin who was born the day Kennedy was shot.) I didn’t expect the anti-Kennedy faction to be also anti-racist (in a paternalistic, no-really-segregation-is-better-for-everyone sort of way). I didn’t anticipate the inevitability of the fact that there were over 200 death threats against Kennedy on that Texas trip – a very relevant fact. I trust King’s portraits of the historical figures – and his sympathetic portrait of Marina takes away some of my usual unease at real people appearing as characters in novels (especially those still living, or with direct relatives still living). I couldn’t possibly have cared less how King portrayed the “waif” – and the almost reluctant (and very limited) sympathy which he also received, and which King forced me to also feel, caught me off guard.
In the end, the main thing I take away from this sprawling saga of time travel and love and fear is a deep affection for King’s characters. Harry Dunning. Al Templeton. Sadie Dunhill. George Amberson/Jake Epping. "Deke" Simmons, Ellen Dockerty, the kids. Even the Oswalds. I won’t forget them in a hurry. Ever. I’m probably going to apologize to Stephen King in every review I write of his books, because I was an ignorant twit when I dismissed his writing for all those years. Mea culpa.
Final comment: There’s a film adaptation coming! A series on Hulu – and filming started on June 9, 2015. Dang. Guess I’ll need to subscribe to Hulu.