Friday 9 March 2012

Dancing is life or 11/22/63 by Stephen King

On Friday Reads on Facebook many many people had been mentioning this book 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Now I had given Stephen King a try some time ago and read his short story The Body so I looked up this book and was intrigued. For americans the title is probably instantaneously recognisable, whereas it didn't mean anything to me: it is of course the date of the Kennedy assassination. The premise on the front cover describes it as a day that changed the world and asks the question, "What if you could change it back?" And that's the book in a nutshell.

Our hero Jake gets a strange call from his friend Al, who runs his favourite diner. It turns out that at the back of his store room there is a 'rabbit hole' that opens into 1958. Al has been using the rabbit hole and had come up with a grand plan to prevent the assassination of JFK, but as he lived through the years between '58 and November 1963 he developed cancer and has been forced to return to 2011, hoping to persuade Jake to take over the mission. As Jake reminds us, history does not want to be changed and the obstacles come thick and fast, getting more surreal as the event gets closer. It has something of 'Back to the Future' about it, raising all the same questions around the idea of time travel, how someone coming back influences future events.
I am not going to say anything else about the plot because it is the crux of the book. This is an excellent book and it is beautifully fast paced. I was totally sucked into the story. It is the kind of story where you will have to make yourself put the book down and go to sleep when you have to get up for work in the morning. Although it is not a great piece of literature and some of the characters are a bit 'stock' it is well researched historically and has enough strands to the plot to keep the reader occupied. It is packed with nostalgia and creates a wonderful 1950's atmosphere, drawing contrasts throughout between then and now, and you can really understand why Jake is tempted to stay on. At 740 pages it is a mammoth read but you hardly notice the pages going by. Highly recommended.

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