11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Published by Pocket Books on January 26th 2016
Genres: fiction
Pages: 1120
Goodreads

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away...but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke... Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten...and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

This was SUCH an interesting one for me.

Stephen King is a writer that I’ve always wanted to love, but I’ve never jived with any of his books. I often find them repetitive and I’m not a huge fan of his endings. Which sucks, because I love the ideas behind his novels, just not the actual execution of them. But every now and then I get the urge to pick up one of his books to just try.

Enter 11/22/63.

I love historical fiction. I love conspiracy theories. I love the idea of time travel. This book was like the trifecta of literature goodness for me. I’m especially a sucker for JFK conspiracy theories; in my American history class in high school I did a half hour presentation on whether or not I thought Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It’s still one of my favourite projects.

Anyway, going into 11/22/63, I was excited. I really wanted to like it. I kept whispering “Please Mr. King, don’t fuck this up”, as if he could go back in time to rewrite the novel to my liking if it didn’t suit me. Because, you know, I am that important of a reader to him.

But the thing was, I didn’t have to try and like it. I genuinely enjoyed it. Like, really enjoyed it. It’s a mammoth of a book, but I flew through the pages. I needed to know what was going to happen. Was Jake Epping going to be able to stop Oswald? What would that change in the future? Would he be able to go back to the future if he was successful or would the portal cease to exist? Was he actually just going to be a mental patient in some hospital who was making this all up (View Spoiler »? So many questions kept me anxiously reading the entire time.

I liked Jake Epping. I don’t have much else to say about him, really. View Spoiler »

I really, really enjoyed how detailed the descriptions for the Land of Ago was. I wasn’t alive in the 50s and 60s, but the details were so rich and inviting that I wish I had been. I’d especially liked to have tried an honest to goodness rootbeer from back then. By the end of the book I wished I could travel back in time just to experience what Jake had experienced. It sounded positively delightful.

I was super happy about the ending too, which as I’ve said, are normally let downs for me. I was glad this one did not disappoint. I was very interested to see how it would end since there were so many possibilities, but I think this was the right one, just based off of who Jake Epping was as a man. View Spoiler »

I’m so glad I finally picked up 11/22/63, and it’s given me hope to continue testing more of King’s writing.

Have you read it? What did you think?

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

By Gaslight

By Gaslight by Steven Price
Published by McClelland & Stewart on August 23rd 2016
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 731
Goodreads

London, 1885. In a city of fog and darkness, the notorious thief Edward Shade exists only as a ghost, a fabled con, a thief of other men's futures -- a man of smoke. William Pinkerton is already famous, the son of a brutal detective, when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead. His father died without ever tracing Shade; William, still reeling from his loss, is determined to drag the thief out of the shadows. Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London in search of her; what he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried. What follows is a fog-enshrouded hunt through sewers, opium dens, drawing rooms, and seance halls. Above all, it is the story of the most unlikely of bonds: between William Pinkerton, the greatest detective of his age, and Adam Foole, the one man who may hold the key to finding Edward Shade.

I dnf’d it.

If you’re wondering, earlier this month (last week? Time is a thing I can no longer keep track of) I didn’t know if I should continue By Gaslight or not.

Reasoning: pacing was slow, writing style (no quotations and a TON of run on sentences) were annoying the poop out of me.

Funny thing is, I actually continued reading it after I posted. I’d rented it from the library, so why not?

A couple of days before it was set to go back from the library, I went to renew it online and found out I couldn’t. I looked at the book, looked back at the notice saying I couldn’t renew it, looked at how many pages I had left, and then flipped to the end of the book and read the ending.

It seemed like an okay book, but again, had it been half the length, it probably would have been much better.

Oh well. Moving on.

To DNF or Not to DNF

At what point in a book do you decide to close it and put it down for good?

I am having issues with this question right now. I don’t know at what point I should stop trudging through a book.

Here’s the scenario. I’m reading By Gaslight, which I was so excited to read when it first came out. I will admit, mostly because of the cover. But the premise sounded fantastic as well. It’s set in Victorian London and I’m a sucker for some good historical fiction.

There are a couple of things that bother me.

  1. The pacing is slow AF. By Gaslight taps out at 600 pages and it could easily be half that while still retaining 90% of the story, in my opinion. I think it’s so long because there’s two narrators (so far) and there’s a lot of flashbacks.
  2. THERE ARE NO QUOTATION MARKS. Why is this a style?? I find it hard to figure out who is talking sometimes. I especially find it hard to figure out which portions are talking portions and which are internal monologue portions since both can be in one sentence. It may not seem like a huge problem, but it irks me. And it means I have to reread some passages.
  3. There are a ton of run on sentences. While this is probably lends itself to the style of Victorian London, the content editor in me is silently screaming.
  4. I’m no longer super invested in what is happening.

Despite all of the above, a part of me is still curious as to where it goes. I may not be invested in the characters, but I still find myself wondering what happens next. I’m standing alongside Pinkerton or Foole and experiencing things as they are; finding out pieces of the puzzle as they do. It’s a slow burn, but I don’t know if it’ll be a good pay off at the end.

Is this just me being very impatient? Should I wait it out? I have no idea.

Let me know how you decide to DNF things!

-M