Thursday, February 2, 2012

11/22/63 - Stephen King (Audio)

It is no secret that I love Stephen King.  His books ushered me from my youth into adolescence, starting with my first experience,"The Stand" in 8th grade.  With a few exceptions (The Cell?  Really Uncle Stevie?) I've read everything he has written.  I love the maleness of his prose, I love his bizarre sense of humor, his 100 to 200-page tangents, his ability to scare the shit out of me.


Reading his newest book was a foregone conclusion.  I was curious that this novel did not delve into the darkest recesses of the horror genre as expected, but instead addresses time travel.  Time travel is good fun.


I expected a little blood.  I know King can't resist.  I expected side trips, because it is physically impossible for King to stay focused on one subject.  He is a little ADHD that way.  What I didn't expect was to experience stirrings in my heart, and to emotionally fall for this book as one would helplessly fall for a first love.


Synopsis:  Jake Epping is a 35 year-old divorced school teacher who plods through his life, getting most of his pleasure from the students he mentors.  Recently, one of his GED students, Harry Dunning, a middle-aged janitor with physical impairments, wrote an essay about how his father killed his mother and siblings with a hammer when he was just a boy.  Devastating stuff.  


Soon after, one of Jake's buddies Al, who owns the local greasy spoon, confides in him that he is dying of cancer and would like to pass on a legacy...a rabbit hole in his pantry that leads back to 1958.  Passing through the portal, even if one stays for years, will result in the passing of only two minutes in the present.  Al suggests the possibility of making the biggest possible contribution to humanity by  preventing the assassination of JFK.  Al has done the legwork, documenting everything there is to know about Lee Harvey Oswald, Jake just needs to see it through.  Al offers one word of warning however.  The bigger the change you try to make in the past, the more the past bites back.  The past is obdurate.  It does not want to be changed.


So Jake takes the challenge with trepidation.  Before he saves JFK, though, he decides to save Harry Dunning's family as well.  Then he meets the love of his life, Sadie.  In the back of Jake's mind, he worries about the consequences of his presence in the past, and the butterfly effect that might have a devastating impact on life as we know it.  


My thoughts:  Well, I'm sorry but that synopsis really doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of this all-consuming book.  At over 850 pages and 30 audio discs, there is ample room for King to do his thang, and do it he does.


And sure, the title of the book would indicate that it's all about stalking and stopping Lee Harvey Oswald and presumably making the world a better place.  For all of you conspiracy theorists and students of this historical watershed moment, you'll get your fix.  King has thrown his back into the research that provides us a peek into the sneering punk that took the 35th President's life.  His obsession with all things Communist, his wife-beating tendencies, his failed attempt on the life of a right-wing political leader.  


But in my mind, it is about so much more.  Why would we ever really want 850 pages of Oswald anyway?  Instead, King reaches deep and comes up with all the entertaining, mind-bending time travel paradoxes and consequences.  He presents the nostalgia of the late 1950's and early 1960's...the music, the cars, the root beer.  He takes it to a personal level, making us fall in love with the people Jake touches throughout his adventure and whose lives are changed.  And it is about love.  


I'm going to digress for a moment.  One of my favorite movies ever is "Somewhere in Time"...it is cheesy sure, but one of the most romantic films I've ever encountered.  And there is a moment towards the end that even the hardest heart will give itself up to the idea of destiny, and true love reaching across time and space.  *sigh*  That is what we get here, at the end of 11/22/63.  And it leveled me.  In the best way.


King also never fails to provide geek moments where he casually mentions characters from other books, some obvious, some not.  It's like running into a childhood classmate at the grocery store.  A little treat for his loyal readers.


It is a serious thing to find a book that you would put on your top ten list ever.  In the three plus years I've been blogging, I think I may have only added one or two (The Time Traveler's Wife is the only one that comes to mind), the others accumulated over a lifetime of reading.  Let the record show that this one is officially being added today.  I will never forget it.


A few words about the audio production:  I never have any worries when I am preparing to listen to an Uncle Stevie audio.  He is a total audio junkie, and I know without a doubt that he would have something to say about who narrates his books.  The narrator in this case, Craig Wasson, as expected, was PHENOMENAL.  It doesn't appear I have ever heard him before, but as I look over his resume, I found myself nodding at the fact that he narrated James Elroy's "Blood's a Rover", an audio I uploaded ages ago because Uncle Stevie said it was the best narration he'd ever heard.  It all makes sense.


5 out of 5 stars             


25 comments:

Nymeth said...

Finding a new all-time favourite is such a wonderful feeling. I'm going to start this very soon and I'm even more excited to now.

Jackie Bailey said...

Wow! That is high praise! I still haven't read any Stephen King, but it is something I'm going to do this year. He has written so many amazing novels and I don't really know where to start. I think I might try The Stand and then get this one on audio. I'm so pleased you've found a new favourite.

bermudaonion said...

You know I'm loving this audio book right now. As far as I'm concerned Craig Wasson is Jake/George.

JoAnn said...

You already sold me... can't wait to really get into it. Great review, Sandy!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Okay okay, okay!

Jenny said...

How funny that we just talked about this today over at my post. I love how much you loved this. It sounds really good even though it's not all about the main synopsis. I'm pretty sure this will be my next audible download!

Ti said...

Well, you know how I felt about it, but in all fairness I did not listen to the audio. In book form, it just fell terribly flat for me.

BookQuoter said...

I can just imahgine that this would be a really good book to listen to. I enjoyed this book so much!!

Jenners said...

Wow!! Just wow! I cannot WAIT to read this now. But why didn't I do this on audio!? I'm an idiot! It is something to find an all time best books EVER book -- so this is going to be going up to the top of my list (once I get some "obligation" reads out of the way.)

Anita said...

Oh Sandy, I've already told you I'm intimidated by large books, it's silly but I am. Much over 400 pages and a balk. I think I'm going to try the audio, sometime in the future, because I just think I have to read/listen to this one!!

Belle Wong said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it - and in audio, too! This one is on my to-read list, but I was thinking about waiting until the publisher lowers the ebook price (last time I checked, it was HIGHER than the hardcover price). But I've got extra Audible credits - I'm popping over right now to get my audio copy!!

Zibilee said...

I need to make time for this one, because thanks to a very generous friend, I do have it on my ipod ;) It does sound phenomenal, and I can't wait to get started with it. I am discovering that I love longer books on audio. The chance to get really invested in character, setting and detail and really get immersed makes me really happy. I think I will have to make it a point to start this one soon. Fantastic and utterly wonderful review today!

Kathleen said...

I've gotta read this one. You should join the Stephen King Project that Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick and I are doing. You only have to read 1 book to be eligible for a prize. :)

Melody said...

I haven't read SK's books for a while; I loved his older novels. They're such a delight to read; and I think "The Cell" was a great disappointment! Glad you enjoyed this one!

caite said...

Ok, 5 out of 5...who can argue.
But 850 pages?
Really?

Alyce said...

I tried very hard not to peek at your review because I'm in the middle of this book right now. It's my first Stephen King book (other than the few pages of Carrie I read years ago) and I'm loving it. I just hope it doesn't get too creepy. I could really do without all the clown references. I saw just a few minutes of It and it was enough to scar me. :) I haven't had a book draw me in so thoroughly in a while though, and I really wish his other books weren't so scary because I find I quite like his writing style.

Serena said...

If I wasn't already excited to read this book, this would totally put me over the top. I used a Christmas GC to get this one in hard cover because I am a conspiracy junkie and I love Uncle Stevie! :) Thanks for an awesome review, and I hope to delve into this one soon...since I'm reading more from my shelves and the library these days.

Serena said...

o yeah, and congrats on finding a book to add to your all-time Top-10 list of books. And I'm not surprised it was a Stephen King book.

Mike Trippiedi said...

I stumbled onto your blog while searching for Craig Wasson, who in my opinion is one of the greatest actors the world as never heard of. Anyway, I recently finished 11/22/63 and can say with all honesty that it is the best book that I have ever read. And I've read a lot. I can't stop thinking about it and am happy to find other people that feel the same way.

Mike Trippiedi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Holy cow! I was kinda excited about this one, but now I can't wait. I'm so glad you loved it.

Darlene said...

I bought this ages ago and really would love to sit down with it and get it read. I wish I would have went for the audio but I got ahead of myself and bought the book. Lol. Glad you enjoyed it so much.

Trisha said...

Okay, you've definitely got me excited to read this one! Which is great since I've been sort of dreading it because it's such a chunkster!

Julie P. said...

I have the ebook for this one but you are making the audio version sound so tempting. But 30 hours....

The Bumbles said...

Sold!