Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

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…

11.22.63

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

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About cmsaunders

I write stuff. Pretty much any stuff. My dark fiction has appeared in Asphalt Jungle, Raw Nerve, Roadworks, Dark Valentine, Screams of Terror, Shallow Graves, Fantastic Horror, The Literary Hatchet, Gore and numerous anthologies. My first book, Into the Dragon's Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales was published back in 2003, and I've worked extensively in the freelance journalism industry, contributing features to numerous international publications including Fortean Times, Bizarre, Urban Ink, Loaded, Record Collector, Maxim, and a regular column to the Western Mail newspaper. I lived in China for over five years where I taught English during my search for enlightenment, before moving back to the UK in January 2013 to work as staff writer on Nuts magazine. Later, I was senior writer on Forever Sports magazine and associate editor at Coach magazine, before leaving to chance my arm in the world of pro freelance. In recent times I have devoted more time to dark fiction, my latest offerings being No Man's Land: Horror in the Trenches, X SAMPLE and Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut). I also edit, copy write, and ghost write. I am represented by Media Bitch Literary Agency and drink far too much coffee. View all posts by cmsaunders

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