WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot – unless . . .
‘King’s gift of storytelling is unrivalled. His ferocious imagination is unlimited.’ (George Pelecanos )
Where does the time go? After finishing this book I checked the internet to find out when I first discovered, and fell in love with, the books of Stephen King. The first one I read was Salems Lot, a paperback I bought using a gift voucher I had been given for a present. I was shocked when I realised that this would have happened over thirty five years ago. I loved Salems Lot and I loved the books that followed it – The Shining, The Stand, The Dead Zone and a stunning short story collection called Night Shift. The publication of a new Stephen King book became a red letter day and I would always ensure that I would purchase my copy the same day that it hit the shelves. Over the years though, the standard of Stephen King’s books dipped a little. Whilst they were nearly always good, and some were excellent, none ever seemed quite as good as his earlier masterpieces. I assumed that I would never read a Stephen King book that would better The Shining or The Stand. But then I read 11:22:63.
11:22:63 not only marks the return of Stephen King to his brilliant best, but it is also quite possibly his finest ever novel. Everything about it is spot on. The characters are excellent, but this is only as I expected, as I have always thought that characterisation was one of King’s greatest strengths. In his latest book the main character is Jake Epping/George Amberson and he is the archetypal Stephen King “ordinary Joe”, a man unwittingly carried along a path on which he has to take decisive actions for the ultimate good of the human race. The story, about travelling back in time to change the future, is superb. Only King at his best could make such an implausible plotline as this seem not only plausible, but utterly believable. Occasionally Stephen King has spoilt a very good book by providing us with a weak ending; this is certainly not the case with 11:22:63 because all the strands of the plot are tied up in an extremely satisfying manner. King even gives us an absolutely sublime final page, one which left me with a massive lump in my throat. 11:22:63 is a remarkable book.
Reading 11:22:63 gave me a buzz of excitement reminiscent of the buzz I used to feel when reading a Stephen King book a long time ago. It is almost like I had located a portal that had enabled me to travel thirty five years back in time…