Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is not your typical horror story, albeit there is plenty of horror in it. There is blood and brain matter splattered on walls and couches and a child murderer. A subtle thread of horror is apparent throughout the novel.
However, 11/22/63 is a time travel story, in which English teacher Jake Epping travels to 1958, a few years before the US President Kennedy’s assassination. The story reminded me of Michael Crichton’s Timeline and flashes of Back to the Future appeared in my mind, when Marty McFly traveled back to 1955. Vivid descriptions of root beer and the slow pace of life in the fifties made me both thirsty and sad, for that time is gone forever.
There are direct and indirect lessons any author can take from 11/22/63. Mr. King’s way of tying every little or seemingly unimportant detail together; his tear-jerking description of Harry’s incident right in the introduction; the way he builds the suspense and the expected and unexpected twists and turns, as the past refuses to be changed. And the clear instructions about ‘keeping the reader guessing’ and ‘keeping it simple’.
The book deals with important questions about the possibility of changing the past and how that affects the present. Will Jake be able to stop Kennedy’s assassination and save the lives of millions of people in the process? What about saving the life of a common individual, of a child, incomparable to Kennedy, but still precious in the eyes of his family and of Jake?
What would you do if you were Jake?