I just finished reading Stephen King’s newest novel and I can’t wait to tell you about it! It’s called 11/22/63 and it’s a time travel story.
Jake Epping is a thirty- something divorced high-school teacher living in the present day, 2011, United States. He gets an unexpected call from Al Templeton, the guy who runs the local diner, and is presented with an incredible proposition: What if you could go back in time and prevent a tragedy? Apparently you can. In the storage room of Al’s Diner there is a portal that will take you back to September 1958. After Al discovered this secret, he used his portal to make many short trips into the past to buy cheap ground beef for his diner and to place a few sporting bets. Every time you come back to the present, you’ve only been gone two minutes. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent ten minutes or ten years in the past, it only seems as if you’ve been gone two minutes, although your body will age no matter what. Al’s big plan is to live in the past long enough to make it to November 22, 1963 and prevent the assassination of J.F.K. The only problem is Al has contracted terminal lung cancer and will probably not make it through the end of the year, let alone the five years required to stop Lee Harvey Oswald. Also, the lease on the diner is up at the end of the month and it’s uncertain how long the portal will remain open. This is why Al has asked Jake to take on this mission himself. Trying to imagine what the last forty years of American and world history would be like if Kennedy had lived is too tempting for Jake to pass up, and he agrees. Don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled anything. This setup takes place in the first 40 or so pages of this 800+ page novel, and the story doesn’t really take off until Jake is back in 1958. The story is filled with many twists and turns and I loved following Jake in his adventure.
One of the simple joys of being a Stephen King fan is the way that he often weaves his stories together. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s obvious, but it’s always a little wink and a nod to his legion of constant readers. This story is no different. Alert fans will know that something significant happens in the Stephen King universe in the summer of 1958 in Derry, and let’s just say Jake may walk into another novel’s storyline for a little bit. It’s a small thing, but it gave me shivers and made me smile. I felt like I had to tell somebody about this book and so last week I was geeking out a little bit to a co-worker, and after several minutes she said, “Actually, I don’t read Stephen King”.
Whether you’re a constant reader or not, 11/22/63 is one of Stephen King’s best books in the past 1o years.
Here are a few other time travel stories you may enjoy over the holidays:
This is the one that started it all! Published in 1895, it tells the story of an inventor who travels forward to the year 802,701 A.D. where he discovers that the human race has been replaced by the childlike Eloi and the savage Morlocks. The nightmarish reality slowly reveals itself to the traveller as the story plays out.
The main character in this book is a librarian who suffers from a rare genetic disorder which causes him to involuntarily travel through time. Told from his perspective and also from that of his long-suffering wife, Niffenegger wrote this book as a metaphor for the difficulties she’s experienced in her own relationships. The novel was also made into a movie starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams in 2009.
Chaplain’s Assistant Billy Pilgrim has become “unstuck in time”. Vonnegut tells a non-linear story that includes a visit to the planet Tralfamadore, post-war suburban life in the United States and the bombing of Dresden in WWII. This last event was personally witnessed by Vonnegut who was a P.O.W. in Dresden during the bombing.
This short story has the distinction of being the most republished science fiction story between 1984 and present day. Originally published in 1952, it can be found in Bradbury’s short story collection The Golden Apples of the Sun. The year is 2055 and time travel has been invented. A hunter pays to go back in time on a guided safari to hunt a Tyrannosaurus Rex. In order to avoid changing the future, hunters are only allowed to kill animals that would die naturally anyway. In fact, this one safari team has “killed” the same T. Rex many times over and over again. The hunters are kept on levitating platforms to minimize their impact on the earth. Of course, when the hunter actually comes face to face with a real live T. Rex, he loses his nerve and falls from the path. This small deviation has disastrous results in the future, as the hunters find out when they return.