Jake Epping is a normal thirty-five year old teacher going about his business until the day a dying friend lets him into a secret and asks him a huge favour. Al discovered a time portal back to 1958 in the store room of his diner and had been using it to buy cheap meat for the diner and to try and change history by stopping the assignation of JFK. However, Al develops cancer and is not fit enough to continue with the task so he passes the information on to Jake and asks him to carry out his final wish. Jake is not entirely convinced but decides to take up the challenge and begins a journey to change the course of history.
I’ll be completely honest here, when I heard that Stephen King’s new book was about someone going back in time to stop the JFK assassination I was disappointed. Being English I have little knowledge or interest in American history (we studied the Native Americans / the gold rush in history at school, which was actually quite interesting, but that’s about it) and I have no interest or knowledge whatsoever about American politics (I have very little interest in UK politics so anywhere outside the UK stands no chance!) But it’s Stephen King, he’s my favourite author and he knows how to tell a good story so I was still keen to get my hands on a copy. The second problem I had with the book is the title. It has taken me AGES to actually remember it. At first I was referring to it as “umm, it’s the date that JFK was shot.” Eventually I did actually manage to remember the date but in the UK format so I am still having to make a conscious effort not to call it 22.11.63 and to be honest, in a year’s time I’ll probably have forgotten the date again and reverted back to “umm, it’s the date that JFK was shot.”
But anyway, despite all of that I bought my copy and jumped it straight to the top of my (huge) to read pile. I was immediately drawn into the story and the characters (characterisation being one of King’s strongest talents). Most of the story is not about the assassination at all but about Jake’s journey through the past, the problems he encounters and the people he meets along the way.
One of the things I loved about this book was the references to King’s other works. He often does include little references but there seemed to be a lot this time. As part of the story takes place in Derry I suppose that helps as there is a big IT reference which is great. There are also several smaller references to other works dotted throughout the book.
I really enjoyed the book for the most part. There was a section towards the middle that I was less keen on as it was mostly Jake carrying out surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald which was not very interesting and could probably have done with being a little shorter. Apart from that the book was brilliant with lots of things going on.
I’m now considering doing some King re-reads again (although I always feel guilty re-reading books when I have at least 150 books that I haven’t read yet sitting on my shelf awaiting my attention).