The Master of the Macabre continues his thrilling recent run of form with this supernatural mystery. Main protagonist Jake Epping is a frustrated small-town English teacher in Maine. One day he is handed an essay written by one of his adult students explaining in horrific detail how the man’s father butchered the rest of his family back in the 1950’s. The essay has a profound effect on Jake. Shortly thereafter he is introduced to a time portal by the owner of a local diner and decides to use time travel to alter the student’s fortunes and also prevent the assassination of JFK, the date of which provides the book’s title and today remains one of the blackest marks in American history. However, upon arrival Jake soon realises that changing the past can have untold consequences for the future…
Word has it that the Master of Horror first started writing this weighty tome as a young teacher way back 1973 (which makes you wonder how much is at least semi-autobiographical), but at the time didn’t feel confident enough in his own writing ability to be able to do it justice. For that reason, it took forty years or so to materialize in its current form. In a way, that is an exercise in time travel in itself!
The back-story suggests that King painstakingly researched and pieced together various aspects of American and world history in order to accurately portray the time period the lead character travels back to, and builds a life in. And he does a great job of it, too, giving the whole book an authentic retro feel as he constantly draws comparisons between modern America and that of the pre-JFK era. As always the characterization is top-notch, and there are even cameo appearances from several characters from his other popular works, most notably some of the teens from the modern masterpiece, IT. Now a little older and wiser than when we last met them.
Being a long-time fan I have devoured most of what King has written, and in my opinion this ranks as one of the best and most accomplished additions to his bulging library. Listed as one of the Ten Best Books of 2011 by the New York Times, 11/22/63 is now available as mass market paperback, the timing of which, I imagine, is partly to prime the market for the imminent release of Doctor Sleep, the long-awaited sequel to The Shining. For newbies and old fans alike, this supernatural thriller is not one to be missed.
This review first appeared in the FREE Morpheus Tales review supplement (issue 21).
Available here: http://morpheustales.wix.com/morpheustales#!supplement/c14cx