11/22/63, by Steven King

Ra cover

Prompted by a conversation at work about favorite time travel stories, I snagged this from the library.

English school teacher Jake is roped into a dying man's plot to exploit a mechanism of travelling back to 1958, from which, with many complications, he waits out the intervening few years in order to prevent JFK's assassination.

I found it a page turner, certainly. But nonetheless I was slightly disappointed, perhaps because of my reverence for such a successful author, who I haven't actually read since my teens. Expectations of mastery clashed with what, for me, felt like lowest-common-denominator style.

King knows exactly what he intends - to use time travel as a hook on which to hang a human tale of drama, aspiration and loss. He has no interest in my personal predilections, such as messing with the logical conundrums of his chosen time-travel mechanic, and he declares this straightforwardly. When the main character asks "But what if I end up killing my own Grandfather?", his mentor shoots him a look of incomprehension, replying "Why in hell would you want to do a thing like that?" Subject closed, and fair enough.


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