Wow. I literally just finished 11/22/63, so I wanted to write a few things about it while everything is fresh in my head, and before I begin analysing it too deeply and obsessing over misremembered details.
First of all, it’s an oddly structured novel, told in 4 arcs. The first is the introduction, which establishes Jake and introduces the concept of time travel. It reminds me of a short story, the kind of intentionally amusing oddity he would have included in the Night Shift or Skeleton Crew collections. It’s a little far-fetched, but played out so casually, as if there’s nothing to it, that it works. Little details, like buying the same pound of meat hundreds of times and then using it to sell 21st century hamburgers are 1960s prices ease us past the point of disbelief.
The second arc is Jake’s first extended visit to the past, which is really just an homage to King’s past. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – in fact, this was my favourite part of the book – but I suspect some readers will find it self-indulgent. Personally, I loved revisiting the town of Derry, seeing the evil that permeates through an outsider’s eyes, and running into the kids of IT. Later on in the book there are also some obvious nods to Cujo (rabid dogs come up a few times) and Christine (a sinister Plymouth Fury plays a role), as well as to Hearts in Atlantis and The Dark Tower saga.
The third arc comprises the bulk of the story, and deals with Jake’s second extended visit to the past. Here we get an interestingly (perhaps too) nostalgic look at the world of the 60s, one of King’s best stabs at developing a romance (between Jake and Sadie), and a healthy smattering of social and political commentary. This part definitely drags in parts, and is largely the reason I had to put the book down and give myself a break for a week or so before continuing. As events take us closer to the JFK assassination, and we really get to see how the past struggles to harmonize and protect itself, the story does take off, but it is a bit of a slog to get there.
The final arc of the story is one that I am sure will polarise audiences. Personally, I loved the Twilight Zone eeriness of it, and the unexpected way in which King deals with the aftermath of Jake’s intervention in the JFK assassination. It’s a bit heavy-handed, for sure, and easily the most fanciful part of the story, but it really brought everything to a satisfying conclusion with no lingering what-ifs.
Overall, a solid King story, and one that I suspect will end up ranking in my top 10, once I have a chance to digest it.