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posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 16 2017, @05:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-good-to-be-the-king dept.

11/22/63
Stephen King
ISBN-10: 1451663838
ISBN-13: 978-1451627282
ASIN: 1451627289

If you're one to heed "TL;DR" then this is most definitely not the book for you, as the almost three inch thick paperback is well over a thousand pages long. That's not counting its afterword, which isn't part of the story, but about its writing.

I don't like Mr. King's chosen genre (but an author doesn't choose a genre, in my experience the genre chooses its author), but I'd loved the movie The Green Mile and a friend loaned me the book. After reading that book, when I heard he's written a time travel story I got out my credit card and visited Amazon; in my opinion, King is one of our time's best writers, even though I find horror distasteful.

This is another of those tales that blur the line between fantasy and science fiction. No time machine is produced or even discussed. The narrator of the story, written in the first person perspective, is a high school English teacher named Jake Epping. His friend Al Templeton has a house trailer that serves as a burger joint, "Al's Fatburgers" with impossibly cheap burgers. Townspeople suspect he's grinding up cats and dogs, and nickname it "Al's catburgers". It's popular among Jake's students. But Al had found a "rabbit hole" back to the year 1958 in the back corner of the trailer, and buying hamburger meat at 1958 prices using money he won back in the past betting on sports, games he knew the outcome of when he placed the bet.

You don't discover that it's science fiction until near the end of the book, when the identity of the "yellow card man" is revealed. This guy is always there when the man from now (or rather, 2011) enters 1958, and in fact it's always the exactly the same every time he goes back. Al has found that he can affect the present by changing the past, and decides to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

The trouble is, he catches lung cancer.

I think Mr. King deliberately blurred the line between fantasy and science fiction. There is nothing actually supernatural, but it feels supernatural. The story starts with Jake, a man who never cries (this is repeated through the story) being brought to tears while grading papers for his GED class. The assignment was "The one thing that changed my life," and the school's elderly janitor, Harry Dunning, a mildly retarded and physically lame man, had a story about how his drunken father murdered his family and almost the janitor with a hammer when Harry was a child.

After the poor old guy gets his GED, Jake takes him to celebrate at Al's. The next day Al calls him and asks him to see him at the diner. He's thirty pounds lighter and his hair has gone gray, and is coughing up blood; he was in lung cancer's final stage. He wanted to prevent Kennedy's assassination and enlists Jake to take over the job.

Jake wants to prevent Harry's family from being murdered, as well.

There is a lot of very graphic brutality, but of course, it's a story of an assassination, with attempted murders, and successful homicides. There is also some great humor. At one point in his first visit back, he's flummoxed by a phone booth and its phone with a rotary dial. The dime slips through, because it's a clad copper 2000 coin; they changed them in the 1960s.

It's also a love story, with the sweetest ending of any story I've ever read.

I've read an awful lot of books this year, and I think this is the best of the lot. I highly recommend this tome! Actually, it's my second favorite this century, right behind The Martian.


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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @05:49AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @05:49AM (#454270)

    King is a really good writer, so hopefully this book isn't as dumb as the summary would lead you to believe. If you can travel back in time, why on earth would you use this incredible power to buy beef, instead of the many commodities that have skyrocketed in price over the decades? Why not gold, or platinum? Why not buy stocks, or real estate, or winning lottery tickets? Hell, bring modern stuff back with you and become the most famous person in 1958.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:31AM (#454287)

      If you can travel back in time, why on earth would you use this incredible power to buy beef?

      An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

      The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

      The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

      The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

      To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

      “But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

      The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

      “Millions – then what?”

      The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:36PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:36PM (#454478)

        I was recently listening to Prof. Maria Armoudian interviewing Prof. Paul Ehrlich.[1] [kpfk.org]
        Among other subjects, Ehrlich was talking about how modern people require both spouses to have jobs to achieve all their "needs".[2]
        He noted that our hunter-gatherer ancestors worked about 2.5 hours a week.
        When anthropologists stumble upon a previously-unknown group of humans today, they find a similar situation.

        [1] The first half (~30 minutes) of that 14MB MP3. Available through mid-March.

        [2] The roots of this bust-your-butt-for-The-Man are traceable to the Enclosure Acts which privatized land ownership and began the destruction of "The Commons".
        Note that the notion of "The Tragedy of The Commons" did not exist prior to that and that that is a modern fable told by The Bourgeoisie.

        .
        Additionally, some may immediately notice that the date in the title is the day my president was murdered in broad daylight (with the collusion of the CIA, whom he was about to dismantle).

        -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday January 16 2017, @07:58AM

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 16 2017, @07:58AM (#454293)

      Something similar had occurred to me but instead of accumulating wealth I'd use the opportunity to erase as many horrible people from history as possible. Not necessarily killing them, but in case of Hitler for example, I would pull strings to get him into that art school...and also make sure he smoked a hell of a lot of weed so no one would ever take him seriously.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @08:42AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @08:42AM (#454307)

        Wait! Who are you really? Are you that guy who gave me the free bag all those years ago? Crap! I coulda been a contender! I could've been somebody! Not a bum, which is what I am! I could have been Brandon Marlo, or Chuck Berry, or Beri Yoga, or somebody. Maybe Paul Ryan? Why did you not visit him? Donald, in the Military School, where he was learning about showers? A bit of weed might have changed things for him. Michael Pence? Do you remember the scene from _Network_ where the CEO lays down the rules for Howard Beale? If only Pence has been through something like that. Or discovered pot. Or acid. Or glue. Or anal inflation. Good times for all, but makes you loose your faith in magic sky fairies, when the want you to take another 15psi up the ol' rectum! !

        • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday January 16 2017, @05:42PM

          by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 16 2017, @05:42PM (#454433)

          I haven't worked out time travel yet, and am getting really sick of reincarnating even though I can only remember one previous life. Sorry, but unless someone figures out how to go back in time, y'all motherfuckers are on your own when this body dies.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @09:03PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @09:03PM (#454509)

            What if you relived the same life over and over again, and could remember the previous iteration through the same life (sort of a lifelong groundhog's day), only each new iteration things were slightly different (language, colors, etc) so that all your memories of the past life didn't make sense to your new body/senses/reality. So every once in a while an event would happen which you remembered, but which you couldn't prevent because you didn't QUITE understand what lead to it?

            Food for thought.

            • (Score: 2) by Azuma Hazuki on Monday January 16 2017, @10:14PM

              by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 16 2017, @10:14PM (#454557)

              Considering I'm pretty sure I was a man last time, that's...unlikely.

      • (Score: 1) by erichill on Monday January 16 2017, @01:52PM

        by erichill (658) on Monday January 16 2017, @01:52PM (#454368)

        Unfortunately, the story revolves around the fact that every time you go back in time, the past is reset. So you only get one shot at doing it right.

    • (Score: 1) by kurenai.tsubasa on Monday January 16 2017, @04:59PM

      by kurenai.tsubasa (5227) on Monday January 16 2017, @04:59PM (#454412) Journal

      Sai King loves to mix the mundane in with the supernatural, and I see why he does it. You can write about scary things but if you really want to creep the reader out, put what you're writing about in the uncanny valley. Mixing the mundane and supernatural that way adds to the creepy factor. It builds believably and suspension of disbelief just enough to take the reader into the unbelievable as though creepy, supernatural things are ever present in the real world, lurking around any given corner, maybe the next one you round.

      A burger joint with low, low prices. Scary is the idea that the wonderful sausage as it were is something like cat, dog, or as in the wonderful sausage archetype, people (wonderful sausage is Soylent!). Add in the supernatural for an interesting twist that makes the reader feel that the bottom has fallen out of reality, and normal assumptions about the world are no longer valid. From that standpoint it makes sense to make the purpose of time travel something mundane like buying up beef. The creepy part of the wonderful sausage isn't what the reader is expecting at the outset at all.

      Since this is King after all, one thing to pay attention to is what brand of soda they drink and whether Takuro Spirits are popular cars. It depends on which reality one finds oneself in.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @05:58AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @05:58AM (#454272)

    At least in the US. Watched the first episode when it started, seemed okay. Will have to check out the novel.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @06:17AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @06:17AM (#454278)

    8th Grade vocabulary... "dumb guy" mass market appeal. (See: false logic pay phone gag.)
    In general, see the movie. It almost always hurts less.

    In this particular case:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2879552/ [imdb.com]

    Seriously? What's next? Best autobiography, "Gilligan's Island"?

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Sunday January 22 2017, @10:01PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Sunday January 22 2017, @10:01PM (#457452) Homepage Journal

      Asimov, widely held as one of the three best SF authors, wrote at an eighth grade level. I've read that that's the best level to write in, which is hard for me as oftenI'll get "is this a real word?" I shouldn't have read that Britannica when I was twelve. Or gone to college.

      Also, I'd say phrases like "The past is obdurate" don't usually occur in an eighth grad level writing.

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @06:31AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @06:31AM (#454281)

    So whitch month in 1963 is this supposed to be the 11th day of?

    There seems to be a typo there,

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:18AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:18AM (#454285)

      No, silly, it's the 63rd day of the 22nd month of 1811.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:41AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @07:41AM (#454290)

        lousy Smarch weather

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Sunday January 22 2017, @09:49PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Sunday January 22 2017, @09:49PM (#457447) Homepage Journal

      Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Didn't you learn that in school?

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
  • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Monday January 16 2017, @11:47AM

    by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 16 2017, @11:47AM (#454348) Homepage Journal

    I stopped reading King after 'reading' (I can't call saying "wtf???" reading) Tommy Knockers: he just seemed to lose it in that booze haze, or something.

    Maybe time to read him again....

    --
    --- That's not flying: that's... falling... with more luck than I have. ---
    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @05:00PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 16 2017, @05:00PM (#454413)

      Don't bother. Grimwood's "Replay" is the better read here. This is just a drunken regurgitation of what Grimwood wrote thirty years ago.

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Sunday January 22 2017, @09:54PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Sunday January 22 2017, @09:54PM (#457450) Homepage Journal

      He's been sober for a couple of decades now. He says in On Writing that he doesn't even remember writing that one.

      I'd read newer stuff from Terry Pratchett and loved it. Found some SF at the library from the early 1980s, and it didn;t even seem like it was written by the same guy. Didn't care for the early stuff at all.

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by bob_super on Monday January 16 2017, @05:29PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Monday January 16 2017, @05:29PM (#454423)

    > It's also a love story, with the sweetest ending of any story I've ever read.

    There goes my running hypothesis that he accidentally ends up 500 years too early, is tortured, drawn, quartered, then burnt at the stake, while she gets sold into sex slavery, and her germs cause the equivalent of a super Great Plague, wiping out most of humanity.
    You could have warned...