“When all else fails, give up and go to the library.”
11/22/63 is a Stephen King book in which the author steps away from his usual territory of horror and fantasy and writes what he called an historical fiction story.
Stephen King had the idea for 11/22/63 as far back as 1971, before Carrie had even been published. At that time, though, he felt that a book of this nature and scope would take too much research to write properly and he wasn’t even sure if he was up to the task as a writer.
He first mentioned the idea of the novel publicly in the Marvel Spotlight issue The Dark Tower, which was released prior to the publication of the Dark Tower comic series and subsequent DarkTower Graphic novels.
Stephen King, along with his researcher Russ Dorr, did extensive research on the period and the subject matter, right down to the price of root beer at the time. He also looked into all the various conspiracy theories that surround the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and he came to the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald had indeed acted alone.
Stephen King’s 11/22/63 asks the question; if you had the chance to change the course of history, would you do it and, more importantly, what would be the consequences if you did.
A 35 year old school teacher, Jake Epping, who also teaches some mature students, reads an essay written by a student named Harry Dunning that tells of how he witnessed his father killing his mother and siblings with a hammer.
A little bit later, a friend of Jakes called Al, who runs the local diner, tells Jake that his storeroom is a time portal that can take him back to 1958. Al manages to convince Jake to go back in time with him and prevent the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.
Jake tries an experiment with the time portal and goes back in time to prevent Harry Dunning’s father killing his family. When Jake returns to his own time, he finds that, rather than improve Harry’s life, Harry has now died in the Vietnam War.
In the meantime, Al, the owner of the diner, kills himself, so Jake has to act fast, before the portal is discovered or destroyed. He travels back to 1958 and starts a new life under the name of George Amberson and falls in love with a beautiful librarian called Sadie Dunhill. He also starts to plan how he will stop Oswald killing President Kennedy on 11/22/63.
Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is a rich historical tale as much as it is a time travel conundrum story and the book won Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller and the 2012 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel.
11/22/63 was well received by the critics too. The New York Times selected the book as one of their top five fiction books of the year and the Las Vegas Review-Journal called it King's "best novel in more than a decade".
Of course, as any science fiction reader will know, if you change one element history it will have unexpected consequences. Does Jake succeed in changing history for the better? You’ll have to read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 to find the answer to that question!