While I am always a fan of King’s writing style, I am not always a fan of his actual stories. This particular book was not one of my faves. I probably shouldn’t have read it in the first place, but I gave in to peer pressure: my uncle recommended it highly at a family dinner. He had lent it to my mom (who was partway through it at the time) and was wondering when our branch of the family would be finished with it because he wanted to pass it on to one of the other dinner guests when we were done. My mom was enthusiastic about it, and my brother wanted to get in on the action, so I invoked primogeniture and got myself on the list ahead of my little brother.
The subject didn’t particularly me. While there was time travel (yay!) and some sic fi (yay!) and a sprinkling of the supernatural (mostly yay), I’m not a big fan of alternate history stories, and I have pretty much zero interest in American presidents. This book is about a time traveler attempting to prevent Kennedy’s assassination, so yeah, not really my thing.
On the other hand, I generally really enjoy King’s style. His deceptively simple sentences remind me of Lego. In lesser hands, Lego is a jumbled mess or an awkward construction, but in the hands of an expert, you get this. So based on family recommendations, and on some of my good experiences with King in the past (The Stand! Rage! The Long Walk! Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption!), I took my turn with the book. (My brother did get to it first, and kind of freaked me out by texting me and leaving notes to Beware the Jimla! “Thanks,” dude.)
Part of what I didn’t enjoy about this book was the subject matter (I mean, yawn, how much do I really care about every move Lee Harvey Oswald made, every place he lived, everyone he met, and all the conspiracy theories around Kennedy’s death?). Part of what I didn’t enjoy is how underdeveloped the supernatural plotline was: King introduces the word Jimla early on and brings it back a few times in a way that hints at something big, but it isn’t as fully developed as one would expect. And the third thing I didn’t enjoy is how the “explanations” and “making sense of things” all kind of bunched up at the end of the book. For my taste, there was too much mundane plodding in the middle, and too much explanatory wrap-up at the end.
To be fair, though, my brother loved the middle part and was quite surprised when I complained about it. To each their own. I wouldn’t read it again, and I probably would have abandoned it in the middle if I wasn’t the kind of person who hates leaving things unread… But if you are interested in this topic, you’ll probably really like it. I’m just sorry the explanatory part wasn’t woven into more of the story because it seemed like it would have been a fascinating thing to explore a bit more.
11/22/63 by Steven King. 2012. ISBN 978-14516-27299.