11/22/63 – Stephen King | The Multi-Genre Manual

To this date, this is the largest book I’ve ever read!!! (I’m really excited about it, if you can’t tell.)

I don’t know what it is about finishing a long-ass book — a good one, in this case — but it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something great. As someone who reads slow as fuck and never finishes series, I’m super proud to have made it to page 842 (even if it did take me 4 months to do so).

I’m terrible at transitions and introductions, so let’s just get into the review!

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The Details

Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is a multi-genre — Sci Fi, Historical Fiction, Romance, and a splash of Dystopian — novel that follows Jake Epping, an English teacher turned time traveler.

After his friend, Al, discovers a “rabbit hole” in his diner that travels back to September 9, 1958, Jake is tasked to try and stop the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. Once Al is diagnosed with cancer, he provides Jake with all of his notes and sends him into the past with hopeful ideas of a better future — specifically one without the death of Kennedy.

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The Review

Why wouldn’t my first Stephen King read also be my longest read? It feels like it’s meant to be.

My first King book ended up being a 4/5, so that must mean I started with a good book. I’ve always heard very controversial opinions about Stephen King, whether it’s his endings or long descriptions, and I was a little skeptical picking this up.

Thankfully, 11/22/63 was the perfect first King read because it had all of the elements I love: marvelous writing, captivating characters, a unique plot, and an alluring, complicated romance. However, I do want to include a TW for male gaze because it made me pretty uncomfortable throughout the narrative, which is the main reason why this novel didn’t get a 5/5 rating (you can only hear so many descriptions of a woman’s breasts).

I now understand the hype surrounding Stephen King’s ability to craft complex characters where you genuinely feel like you know them. Other than Jake’s slight sexism, he has been one of the most 3-dimensional and interesting characters that I’ve ever read. The way he spoke of Sadie was both admiring, yet a little creepy, but I think that harmony is what makes King’s characters so great. He seems, at least in 11/22/63, to be very talented with implementing equally positive and negative elements within his novels. A ying-yang, if you will. As a libra, that is much appreciated.

Speaking of characters, I was shocked and surprised that King had me feeling sorry for Lee Harvey Oswald, the president murderer. This definitely doesn’t help the fact that my family and past coworkers label me as a “communist”, but seeing Lee as a “family man” — I use the term lightly — reminded me that Lee was still a human. Killing someone because they don’t share your opinion is messed up regardless, but I love an unlikeable character, and King portrays him in a light that made me feel bad for the poor guy. King probably made most of it up — he even put a disclosure stating that he’s not trying to explain what happened. Either way, I admire King’s ability to transform a hated man into a, somewhat, sympathetic family man.

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Another aspect that I loved about 11/22/63 is how Stephen King includes multiple genres, like historical fiction, sci-fi, etc. It could’ve been the size of the book, but I feel like I read 5 different types of stories in one. With all the different plots, I feel like I lived a lifetime alongside Jake Epping, and I can truly say that I’ve never felt that way with any book or series. Maybe it’s the amount of description and details or my own personal reading experience, but I care a lot about this story regardless.

To be honest, I put this book down for about 2 months in between reading it — life was busy, as always –, but I didn’t have any problems picking it back up. It did take me a minute to remember the first half of the book, but King was wonderful at keeping me up to pace. Of course, I had moments of “wtf is happening? who is that?” but I usually found/remembered the answer within a few paragraphs.

Let’s conclude with the ending, shall we? No spoilers, of course.

The ending of 11/22/63 upset me so much, but in the best way possible. Now, I know King’s ending are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I admire his ability to catch his readers off guard. It’s something I keep thinking about, and those, to me, are the best types of endings; whether you like them or not.

The way things ended with Sadie and Jake broke my fucking heart, to say the least. I was more invested in their relationship than the main JFK plot, and the way things concluded for them hurt me wayyy more than the state of the world with an almost-assassinated Kennedy. Sadly, the dystopian world was very underwhelming, but I was on the edge of my seat (or bed) to see what happened to Sadie and Jake. Honestly, if Stephen King completely erased the JFK plot, I would probably like the book even more. Then again, it wouldn’t be a King novel without multiple story lines that may not even have any purpose at all? Of course not.

One thing I actually loved about the ending of 11/22/63 was the explanation of the Green/Yellow/Black Card Man. I never really knew what the man represented (I had my guesses, of course), and King impressed the hell out of me with his take on dimensions and time travel. His intelligence definitely shines through his writing and creativity.

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The Show

I watched the Hulu adaptation of 11/22/63 because JaMeS FrAnCo, and I enjoyed it at the time. However, after reading the book, I’m disappointed in the adaptation.

It’s been a while since I watched the show, so I definitely need a refresher to write a thorough review. The one thing that bothers me is the fact that they gave Jake a helper, Bill. Bill’s brought up in the very beginning of the book for a few pages, but they attached him to Jake’s hip throughout the show. He didn’t even need him! I understand that it creates more dialogue since no one probably wants to follow one single guy just waiting for one single day to come up, but I think James Franco could have pulled it off and made it just as good.

I’ll have to rewatch the show to have a concrete review of it, but I don’t even know when I’ll get to it. Maybe one day!

The End

Even though I know King’s 11/22/63 won’t be for everyone — that’s King for ya –, I would 100% recommend it to anyone and everyone. I have always been terrified of larger books, but this book has me goggling at IT for Halloween time. It definitely has some faults and is a little dated, but the characters and writing are enchanting and phenomenal. A super enjoyable read!

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