11.22.63, by Stephen King

Time-travel story: faced with the possibility of going back in time so that you could prevent Kennedy's assassination, should you do it?

After the disappointment of Under the Dome, I was a little worried about this one, but it was loads better. Not really very typical King: I think he's done a couple of SF short stories but not a novel, and this had very few horror elements in it.

King's idea about how time-travel could work was a real winner: by stepping through a portal, you turn up at a precise time in 1958. Coming back to "now", you turn up 2 minutes after you left, regardless of how long you spent in the past (a bit like coming back from Narnia). And then returning to the portal puts you back in 1958, with everything "reset".

The consequence of this setup is that in order to prevent Oswald from shooting Kennedy, you have to live for 5 years in the past. And if something went wrong to cause you to have to return, then the next attempt would require another 5 years of biding your time. I don't think I've come across this idea in time-travel novels before. But it did mean there were some really nice consequences for how the novel had to work.

The only thing I thought was wrong with this novel was the "horror" bit (for want of a better description) with the "yellow card man". This appeared to be King's attempt to provide some kind of rationale for the existence of the portal, and the meta-structure that supported it. I think this could have been dispensed with altogether: in this case, I think not having an explanation at all would have been better.

But it was a great read.

Re-read in 2016. It was really good - better than I'd remembered: I think I had thought that the ending was a complete let down and went on for ages. But in fact, although it was a bit weak, it didn't seem as much of a cop out as some of his books.

I liked the way that when he went back in time, he was continually surprised about how different things were in "The Land of Ago"

Completed : 14-Oct-2012

Completed : 24-Sep-2016

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