I've been a fan of Steven King my whole adult reading life. He has a home down style that keeps the reader turning pages. However, not everything he writes is great. And, though I can say many good things about this book, this 849 paged reading investment was not great. However, it was entertaining, fast and fun to read.
What really captured my interest in this book was a tunnel that transports Jake (aka George) from the present (2011) to the same location but a different time, namely September 9, 1958. Jake inherits, from a dying friend, the tunnel knowledge along with the idea that it would be good to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. To do this he has to hang out in the 50's and early 60's for 5 years. If things aren't going good, he has the option to go back to the tunnel and start over again, a "redo", in September 9, 1958.
King is the master of horror, and this he does quite well. There are many monsters. One of my friends claim that time is the monster, but I disagree. Time is more of a victim. It turns out that that this story has many human monsters (such as Lee Oswald, and other murderers in this story), but the number one monster is reveled as ole Jake the time hopper.
King was particularly clever with his idea of being able to do a "redo"in case the future (which was altered when the past was visited) wasn't what was intended. I also loved his depiction of Derry, Maine, and the links with a previous novel, "It". If you have never read "It", the clown monster has just hibernated in Derry at the same time that Jake passes though. We get to revisit a few of our beloved adolescent characters from "It", Beverly and "Beep Beep" Richie. This was delightful.
Why wasn't this a great book? King gets off the story line, and subplots you to death with a very long love story between Jake and a gal he meets in Texas. It was fun to read, but was too long. The main subplot was like a book within a book. If his editor would have done the job he/she was supposed to do, this could have been a great book, but it has a problem with too many words. Additionally, his time travel story (with respect to such things as the butterfly effect) doesn't always make sense. He tries to make up for this with some lame explanation regarding time threads. King takes you along this long story line trying to prevent the assassination of JFK, and then with no warning, some really dramatic things happen that aren't explained even in his fantasy world.
The last thing I don't like about this story is his hatred of Dallas. I happen to love Dallas, living there a good portion of my childhood and some of my adult life. Dallas was charming, the city of entrepreneurship, sky scrapers, oil money, helpful people and fast new freeways! Granted, there was a quiet racial segregation in the city that was typical in the1960's and 70's, but this city was and is full of a free and abundant human spirit where liberty and capitalism prevail. King personally (in his afterward) judges Dallas as a city of extreme hate. Heck, if he does this to Dallas, he should pretty much despise Texas, or why not the whole Southern US?
"Some people will protest that I have been excessively hard on the city of Dallas. I beg to differ... Dallas was an hateful place. Confederate flags flew rightsize up... It is better today, but one still sees signs on Main Street saying HANDGUNS NOT ALLOWED IN THE BAR" King states in his Afterward.
Seems to me that this is a statement about King's political views on the racial issues the whole country struggled with, and, what else, gun control? In a state where gun ownership is common and it is possible to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, it seems pretty reasonable to have a sign like that in a bar. What is your point, Mr. King?
My recommendation for a great fantasy/horror genre would be Neil Gaiman's American God's. Now, that was a great book! However, for a good time, 11/22/63 is just fine.