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Thread: Review of 11/22/63

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    Review of 11/22/63

    Horror is a monster. But I used to think of them as foreign things, beyond human understanding, coming to kill, consume, or destroy indiscriminately, overturning an at least tolerable, if not happy, way of life.

    11/22/63 and Mr. King have taught me better than that.

    Horror is a monster. Unfortunately, the best ones—or worst ones, depending on your point of view—are people. And not just people, but people we know—love even, which is where the most horrific part comes in to play.

    Oswald is a minor part of 11/22/63, in fact, he’s a bit player, a backdrop. Without checking, I guess he probably appears on twenty pages or fewer of the 849 page novel. Jake Epping or George Zimmerman, depending on which side of the timeline your seat is, has Oswald firmly in mind when he crosses through fifty years to 1958 on a mission to save the 35th President of the United States. So how does King fill a nearly 1,000 page beast of a read when the hero’s only goal is to kill a character who’s barely even in it?

    Monsters.

    No, not the kind that come from space or travel through time (although time travel, obviously, is a huge plot device). They don’t even bother dragging themselves out of dark, cavernous basements or creak down long unending hallways. The monsters are right there in the open to be read in broad daylight. From the would-be family murdering Frank Dunning, the Cuban bookie Jake meets in Florida, or John Clayton, the monsters either don’t, or barely hide. Including the biggest monster of all; Epping himself.

    Oh no, you won’t get it out of me how the man—and his predecessor, Al Templeton—is the worst of all these monsters, but I think they all have a single motivation: selfishness. Something has been taken from each of these men and they would have it or an item of equal value back. Money, reputation, respect, life. Yes, when you find out how exactly the rabbit hole works, you’ll understand more. You’ll understand why the Yellow Card Man is probably one of the saddest heroes in modern-day literature (maybe that’s an over-exaggeration; I won’t qualify it, though). You’ll understand why every paragraph you read detailing what Jake Epping does in the mid-twentieth century is wrong.

    But 11/22/63 should remind a sane and reasonable person how selfish human beings naturally are. How we want what we want regardless of consequences, how so like infants we continue to be even into adulthood. And how it takes near supernatural forces sometimes to sway us from our lone paths. It is a lonely path for Epping. It takes five years and two minutes at the same time and he passes by paradoxes and steps over quandaries in single pursuit of a selfish goal that he is constantly nudged away from from the moment he steps out of 2011 and into 1958.

    Oswald is only the monster you expect; he is not the only one you see. Killing him seems the noble, reasonable thing to do if anyone were given a time machine to go back and do it. But would you listen if the universe whispered ‘no’?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Ok, I really can't come up with anymore of these stupid things... srboone's Avatar
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    Interesting observation, Mr. Rice. Must rethink the Card man as a hero. Now I've read the book and made up my own mind, but I can't tell what you thought of the quality of it. Reads more like a description than a review. But some tidbits worth noting in there. Thanks.
    "I'm a vegan. "

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    I thought the writing was excellent. Now to qualify, I did listen to the audiobook and Craig Wasson is extremely awesome, but I found myself being pulled in to the story. Yes, King telegraphs certain things with the over-mushiness of the romance aspect. You can see trouble coming down the line for the two lovers. But for me, it worked. I liked Jake Epping, I liked Sadie, I liked them together. It worried me when they broke up and I had hope they'd get back together and it became obvious early on that the Oswald storyline was a backdrop. I might even put this back in the queue at the library to listen to it again sometime. I guess I didn't come out and say whether or not I liked it, but I did. King well and truly captured me with 11/22/63 and I found myself cramming CDs so I could listen to the whole thing without it being returned to the library late.

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    Senior Member Ok, I really can't come up with anymore of these stupid things... srboone's Avatar
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    I thought the book worked best when Jake/George interacted with people from the past. It lost my attention when jake was eavesdropping or just observing the characters. And I am upset that "Jimla" turned out to something very mundane and was dropped halfway through the book. So for me the novel was not entirely successful. A middling effort in my opinion. But to each his own!
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    Jimla was mundane? Jimla was
    Spoiler!
    !

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    Senior Member Ok, I really can't come up with anymore of these stupid things... srboone's Avatar
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    I didn't get that out of it. I'll have to go back and reread that section at some point, but if it's not apparent on a first reading, then it's not a very well-presented conceit. It might have been that I simply wanted to finish the slogging my way through the book. Either way, 11/22/63 was a book that I'm glad I read, but didn't present me with anything new or interesting in the cannons of King's mythology, time travel, or history.

    Spoiler!
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    Senior Member Receiving Daily Medication jhanic's Avatar
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    I don't think I understand your comment that Jake Epping was the "biggest monster" of all. To take a bit of King's Dead Zone, if you had the opportunity to go back in time and kill Hitler, would you do it? I see Jake/George as asking himself a similar question regarding Oswald and answering it in the affirmative. He went to great lengths to make sure that Kennedy would live if Oswald were taken out. Where's the monster?

    John

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    Senior Member 1st Electroshock Session TerryE's Avatar
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    But as the climax proved, Jake never had to kill Oswald. The plan all along could have been to get himself into the Book Depository before the event and find a way to distract Oswald. It's a similar argument with Hitler, but Hitler had a lot more time and power to change history, Oswald's chance (as a lone gunman) was but a single instant and wouldn't need as big of a response from the person wanting to change the past. Now, does wanting and planning to kill Oswald make Jake a monster? I don't think so. Was Jake purely motivated by selfishness? I don't think that was the case either. Remember, Jake didn't know how the rabbit hole really worked until the very end, and made the unselfish sacrifice of his own happiness.
    "Dance until your feet hurt. Sing until your lungs hurt. Act until you're William Hurt." - Phil Dunphy ("Modern Family"), from Phil's-osophy.

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