• Title: 11.22.63
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Published: 2011

11.22.63 is about Jake Epping, a recently divorced high school English teacher, who discovers a wormhole in his friend’s diner. The wormhole transports him to 1958, where Epping begins to adjust to 1950s life, as well as plot to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which happened on the 22nd of November, 1963.

It’s hard to summarise the genre of this novel. I think it’s an interesting combination of science fiction, historical fiction, political dystopia and alternate history. Although I don’t profess to be a science-fiction fan, I really enjoyed the science-fiction elements of this book, because they were not too abstract for the common reader to understand – they felt normal and believable, which I think is rare in books that tend to focus on time, space, aliens and everything in-between.

I also liked the historical and political themes; I studied American presidents as part of my A Level History course, and 11.22.63 provided a decent recap of this. It was also interesting to consider the repercussions of each and every seemingly small action had in the “grand scheme of things”.

Furthermore, despite 11.22.63 being set in a world a further 50 years in the past, the questions it raises are still just as significant today:

  • If you could change a terrible event in the past, not knowing the future consequences, would you? What if this triggers an equally horrific event later in time?
  • Is it better to learn from the past, rather than try and undo it?*

This reminds me of the famous quote by the philosopher Santayana: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. (Reason in Common Sense, 1905), p. 284

I also liked the length of the novel. It’s a big read, and took me a sizeable amount of time to get through, but I was kept captivated throughout and I was glad I had so long to enjoy the book for.

However, I thought there was an unusually high amount of explicit violence in the book – punches, stabbings, broken noses, and gun fights. I’ve read some of King’s horrors that do have high levels of bloody violence in, so on the one hand, this isn’t an unexpected feature in King’s writing. On the other hand, I naively thought those sorts of scenes would be unnecessary and therefore omitted from a non-horror book.

For me, the best part of 11.22.63 was the intertextual references to another of King’s books, IT, which is also set in 1958’s America, and the last King book I read, so I feel like I’m reading his books in some kind of weird order. I completely forgot that IT was set in this timeline, and to be drip-fed clues and references to another plot was really entertaining, although this isn’t a huge feature within the narrative of 11.22.63.

I also found the ending incredibly powerful; it’s rare for me to be strongly moved by a book’s ending (especially as most of them seem to end on cliff-hangers nowadays…) but I felt so sad for Epping, and the Dystopian America portrayed. I won’t spoil the ending for any who may wish to read it, but I was certainly affected by it.

I strongly recommend this book.

– Judith

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11 thoughts on “Read and Review: 11.22.63

    1. I wouldn’t say so; it’s easy to get “hooked” and read a lot at a time, but I’m still always conscious of its overall length. I’ve been reading it for about 2 months on and off, in and amongst my studies, so it’s definitely a long-haul read.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love this book! This is probably my absolute favourite King novel, and I actually just started watching the miniseries too. I agree with everything you’ve said: the intertextual references were a really cool way of building on that universe, and yes, the violence was definitely a bit of a spillover from his usual work, one that wasn’t exactly necessary in this story. And of course the ending was beautiful, and very sad. Not even going to lie: I cried a little.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Every one of King’s books take place in the same literary universe. They all revolve around the keystone series: The Dark Tower. That means for any of of his books that you read, the events of any of his others have happened within that same world (or sub world). Even for the stories that seem completely unrelated from a supernatural sense:

    Example: The Body (on which the movie Stand By Me was based) introduces Ace Merrill is the chief thug and antagonist. The same character Ace Merrill appears in Needful Things as the henchman of Leland Gaunt.

    Leland Gaunt could very likely be another incarnation of King’s favorite villain The Man in Black (Randall Flagg). One of Flagg’s chief identifying marks is a complete lack of any lines on the palms or fingertips of his hands. This same feature is attributed to Leland Gaunt. It is possible, however, that this is just a common characteristic of a sub race of demon in King’s stories

    It’s a pretty deep rabbit hole but I promise you, for each book that he’s written you can find at least one character, detail, or characteristic that firmly cements the story into the overall universe of the Dark Tower, even if it’s only the mention of a fictional town (see Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem’s Lot).

    Liked by 1 person

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