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 hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
This book has an interesting premise. You can read about that in any number of the kazillion reviews that have been written. But the execution of it? Not so interesting. If this is a five-star listen, we need more stars to give out to really fabulous books.
The biggest question this book raised for me is this: at what point does an author have the right to dismiss all editors? I felt like this was a perfect example of a book that really would have gained from a big fat red pen. Truly, at least 100 pages could easily have been cut. That only would have removed the repetition. My guess is that at some point in time after you've made millions and millions for your publisher, no one will suggest editing. I think of the conversation going more like this: "Fabulous book. Wouldn't change a word. Here's your check. When can we get another?"
Many people have loved this book so take my review of it with a grain of salt. I did get sucked into the story - though continually commented on the need for editing. I thought it could have been much shorter and still had impact. It also could have gained from more lively narration.
Say something about yourself!
My earliest memory is of a special news report breaking into my grandmother's soap opera announcing that JFK had been shot. That event has been a narrative thread in my life. I'm sick of it. So while loathe to read yet 'another rehash', I thought the master storyteller's latest tale would make good company on the treadmill.
Wow. Forget the treadmill.
11-22-63 is a tale told in first person narrative that was immediately so completely gripping, entertaining and thought provoking, I suspect King wrote it the book specifically for both this new/ancient audiobook medium and reader Craig Wasson.
It doesn't actually matter what the book is about, it is King at his finest; astounding me that after about 50 books, he still has new things to say and exciting new ways to say them. Wasson's reading relies on his mastery of inflection and dialect, not voice change, making the world of 11-22-63 that of a storyteller, rather than an ac-tor. The reading itself becomes such an integral part of the story that it is difficult to tell where King's efforts end and Wasson's begin, working like a big, beautiful machine.
The experience of listening to 11-22-63 is one I will never forget. In this new form of an ancient art, it is a masterpiece.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
I really wanted to like this book -- I really did! Sadly, however, it doesn't live up to its interesting premise. I enjoyed the first part, stuck with the middle, and felt deflated by the end. I must admit that I'm not usually a big King fan, but I'm of his generation and appreciate the fascination with this particular "what if". In my opinion, the book would have been better had it been considerably shorter.
“The past does not want to be changed”……..This is the premise that drives 11-22-63, although this story is as much about nostalgia and the human experience as it is a very fresh and enjoyable take on time travel.
Jake Epping a divorced 35 year old English teacher from 2011 is living a rather lonely life, as his ex wife has recently left him for someone she met in an AA meeting. Jake has few friends but he has befriended Al, the owner of a local diner who is able to sell his “real beef” burgers at suspiciously rock bottom prices. One day Al calls Jake to come over to the diner after hours to “show him something”. Jake comes over only to find that Al who was healthy the day before, is in the last few days of terminal lung cancer and seems to have aged overnight. With little explanation as to his current state of health, Al decides showing Jake his secret is easier than telling him, and so Jake steps into the pantry of the diner, and into 1958….
I will not go into any more plot details than this, because “living” them along with Jake is what makes this a great read. King explores the terrible and sometimes catastrophic repercussions of trying to change the future by altering the past, and in this novelization you experience right along with our protagonist Jake that trying to alter seemingly unalterable events, (that changed lives and shaped history) is like wading though jello pudding, and is resistant to change. We also observe the horrors and ripple effects that these alterations bring about, the past, shall we say, will have it’s day. At the end this novel asks the question; Was the past better left untouched? Even if you can prevent horrific events, was the world still a better place than the skewed reality created by changing them?
Jake himself grows as a character, and in his five year journey he finds inner strengths that were deeply buried in the meek English teacher from 2011, and he even dares to love again. 11-22-63 also explores great questions of morality; selfish desires versus noble intentions, and whether the life of a friend or loved one is a sacrifice worth making for the life of a world leader.
For me this was truly a page turner, and although a lot of parts of the book were a bit of a meander through the past, I never felt that it dragged because I experienced life during 1958-1963 as if I had lived back then myself, so clear is the complete immersive experience that King gives us, the visuals… the smells…the sounds…. I also appreciated that King pulled no punches; as much as a beautiful sense of nostalgia that this novel gives you, you also experience the mindset of the day; A different restroom for those of another color, fear of communism, women truly being the lesser sex in society… I came away with a greater appreciation of both the past and the present. Of course like any King novel there is a little touch of the other-worldly going on here that we discover at the very end ;)
Like any good book I was on a race to the finish, hoping I would never find it.
I also want to jump on the bandwagon in praise of the reader Craig Wasson; a good reader can add dimension to a good book, or ruin it. Craig’s voice at first took a little getting used to because upon first listen I thought it sounded a little too old for the character, but after that adjustment I felt I was listening to a movie or play rather than a book. Craig not only has mastery over the different accents and voices of the characters, but he goes beyond just voices, he adds subtle chuckles, inflections, coughs, whimpers… all these take us beyond just the text, and deeper into the heart of the story.
Have to admit that i am not part of the "Stephen King" mafia, as it regards to his fans, readers et al.
That said, this book was easily on my wife and mines' "must listen" list, and listen we did, over the post Holiday period, and in particular the Seattle winter blast storm of January 2012.
What a book. Huge in it's scope, spanning topics, time periods, people, history, et al . A big listen, that requires no small level of attention, and some previous knowledge of US history.
All that combined, this is one of the best audio books I have ever enjoyed, and it is personally recommended to you . Enjoy, as I know you will. ( But commit, because it is looong! )
It's in the top 5 for sure.
When the main character goes through the rabbit hole one last time.
Emotion in his voice, I picture the scene in my head like I'm watching a movie.
Things happen for a reason.
First time ever reading/listening to a Steven King novel and I was surprised and very pleased he has a great sense of humor.
As far as Stephen King goes. this isn't one of his best works, but it isn't awful. It seems to be more of an excuse for aging Mr. King to wax nostalgic. The story is somewhat compelling, though there are far better time travel books out there is the wide world of Sci-Fi.
With that said, let's discuss the narrator. As a blind guy, I have the utmost respect for audiobook narrators, butt I can't figure out why they selected Craig Wasson for this one. One thing that really gets to me in an audiobook is when the narrator tries to steal the show. I don't need fake crying and laughing as I'm trying to delve into the story. Please, leave that for the listeners.
I was fully invested in this novel after the first part. However, somewhere right in the middle on the way to Jodie, Texas the story completely fell apart. And therefore, I feel like I need to vent a little about some of the things that frustrated me about this book.
Sadie was not a real character in the least. Their relationship was just so awkward. And she completely changed at the end to fit better with the story and to give her character some more empathy/sympathy points with the readers. Most of all, I could not stand all of the allusions to dessert and poundcake, especially in the oddly chosen voice by Mr. Wasson.
Jake talked about harmonizing non-stop, mostly in situations when it probably was a coincidence. It was completely ridiculous. She will be listening to this radio station, the past harmonizes. He does this, harmonizes...harmonizes...harmonizes.
I did finish the book in less than a week so it clearly held my interest. But much of that was waiting to see what the resolution was, to finally see what the ramifications were of changing the past.
SPOILER And so we are introduced to this new character (rainbow card man) who is an interesting storytelling device but we really never get any background on him, what he's doing, why he's doing it, why his job is necessary. And then the future is terrible and for some reason, Harry still has a ridiculous voice and the earth is fighting back. Then Jake realizes his mistake and erases it. This all took place in like 30 minutes of the book, which was 30 hours long. There is no explanation for the timecops or the ridiculous idea that there are now earthquakes all over the world.
That said, I enjoyed the majority of the history and the majority of the parts when he was actually attempting to change the past. And though I sickened of Craig Wasson after 30 hours, he certainly brought more to the book than most audiobook narrators attempt.
I was somewhat disappointed with this book. King starts out with a good premise and then lets it deteriorate into a soppy love story (at which he is not very good).
If you buy this book expecting a King-like story, you too will be disappointed.
The narration was quite good overall, but the narrator seemed at times to be a bit melodramatic and would inexplicably change voices for the same character mid-sentence.
His voice just did not fit for a 35 year old Jake, but was more appropriate for the eldest characters.