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11/22/63 sees Stephen King at the top of his game

Posted on May 12, 2021 by Taber Times

By Cole Parkinson
Taber Times
cparkinson@tabertimes.com

As I read my way through Stephen King’s classic The Shining, it’s becoming quite clear the book and movie are so vastly different they could be regarded as two separate stories featuring characters with the same name.

And this isn’t anything new with King adaptations, as a large majority have been changed in some facet to achieve more of a movie and TV-like feel.

Just look at the two movies for IT, which saw several notable changes from book to screen — some of which were for the better, some not.

But as I read through The Shining, it’s made me want to go back and revisit my favourite King book — 11/22/63.

While primarily known as “the master of horror” for the past several decades, 2011’s 11/22/63 treads away from horror and instead focuses on time travel and alternate history.

As a big fan of time travel/alternate history stories, this one was exactly what I wanted when I first read it back in the summer of 2017.

Since that first read-through, I can safely say it’s one of my favourite books of all time, and it’s one I plan to revisit several times throughout my life.

For those who have not yet read 11/22/63, it focuses on Jake Epping, a high school teacher in Maine, who discovers a portal to September 1958 and he’s tasked with trying to prevent the JKF assassination in Dallas on Nov. 11, 1963.

Now, this premise is incredibly vague because I would encourage anyone to go into the book without any idea of what’s about to happen. After all, the twists and turns are spectacular.

While heading into any King book, you may think there’s going to be some deadly monster or a terrifying person looking for blood, in reality, the book is much more of a love story and examining how changing the past would affect the future.

The character of Jake Epping is just an every day guy who’s thrown into this scheme to see what would happen if JFK didn’t get shot in Dallas — but the years he has to spend in the past are the bulk of the book and without a doubt some of my favourite reading experiences. If you’re a King fan, you’ll also be familiar with some towns and characters Jake meets along the way and they do provide some really cool Easter eggs.

If you aren’t a King fan, there’s still plenty of things to love about this book, you just may overlook some of the things Jake experiences, but it definitely wouldn’t make it a worse reading experience.

The characters introduced in 11/22/63 feature a mix of King’s creations and a handful of real-life people — which is to be expected when dealing with JFK’s assassination.

The characters all get fleshed out and you do feel a connection to these characters, especially Jake and Sadie Dunhill, who I can easily say are some of my favourite characters in any book, ever.

While there are also sorts of troubles that can come with time travel in books, TV or movies, I think King does a great job of establishing the rules early on and then never straying away from them. It’s laid out pretty clearly what happens when Jake goes back to 1958 and what happens when he returns to present-day 2011.

The idea of “the butterfly effect” works well in this story and King uses it to his full advantage.

While I have no idea what the late 1950s and early 1960s actually looked and felt like, I think King’s descriptions of what Jake sees, smells, touches and everything in between are expertly done.

King, of course, has already dabbled in life in the 1950s in IT and The Body (A.K.A. Stand By Me), so he’s not any stranger to that period for writing, and of course, he actually lived it, so he has plenty of experiences to bring to the page.

And like the majority of King stories, 11/22/63 was developed as a Hulu series in 2016 starring James Franco, as Epping.

The TV adaption is actually pretty good, though it cuts a lot out and it does feel rushed compared to the novel, which takes its time in getting to the big date of Nov. 22, 1963.

Obviously, any TV show or movie has limits in regard to length and I think that can be said of pretty much any adaption of longer novels.

That being said, it’s still a fairly good adaption, albeit one you should approach much like The Shining.

Overall, both are enjoyable — but, I think the book is allowed to explore the 1950s/1960s more freely, which expands on the character development of the main characters.

You really feel like you’re living alongside them in the book.

So if you’re looking for something to read over the next few weeks of these dreadfully long restrictions, I can’t recommend 11/22/63 enough.

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