By Chet Yarbrough
By Stephen King
Narrated by Craig Wasson
Historical fiction is one of the more entertaining genres of literature. The audio book version of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 is at the top of the list; written by an excellent writer; told by a master narrator. (Craig Wasson’s voice evokes emotions that many will miss if King’s spectacular and imaginative story is only read.)
Horror fiction is not a genre that interests this critic but Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and the unforgettable event of John F. Kennedy’s assassination breaks a prejudice laden misapprehension of King’s writing. King is so much more than a writer of fictional horror like “Cujo”, “Carrie”, and “The Shining”.
Mid-twentieth century human nature; i.e. its evil, its good; and big and small town’ smells, tastes, crimes, and passions are revealed in King’s book. The eerie quality of cities, neighborhoods, industries, and buildings are described with leaden details that set the stage for a time traveling adventure that begins in a diner and ends near a red brick building in Dallas, Texas.
King’s ability to emote feelings by describing details of good and bad qualities of human beings rivals the best authors of fiction. One loves and hates King’s characters in “11-22-63…” A listener’s heart swells and contracts, eyes tear, chests heave, and stomachs turn as the course of King’s story unfolds.
King’s 11/22/63 offers a message about history that reveals the craftsmanship of a great author that writes one thing and evokes many things; i.e. a listener or reader knows they are in the hands of a master story-teller as the table is set for time travel that says you can go back in time to one date, spend many years from that one date in the past but when you return to the present, only two minutes have passed; if you change the past with your actions, you may see the consequence in the future by returning to the present but, if the changes are not what you expect, you can only return to the original date to make a different change. It is always a re-set of the future when you go back in time. The re-set date is always in 1958, 5 years before Kennedy’s assassination.
The craft of a good fiction writer shows attention to details when referring to people associated with famous or infamous historical events; i.e. the details enhance the stories they write. Listening to 11/22/63 leads one to look up the names of characters in King’s story. One wonders if Marina Oswald is as beautiful as King suggests, is she still alive, did she return to Russia?
Is there a General Walker that Oswald allegedly tried to kill before the Kennedy assassination?
Is there a mysterious, well-connected, aristocrat that befriended the Oswald family that may have been involved in a conspiracy to kill General Walker and President Kennedy?
King sets a table for five years of preparation to stop Kennedy’s assassination; many things happen in that 5 year period; i.e. murder, mentor-ship, love and death. This is a brilliant creative scheme that suspends belief, creates tension, and offers suspense with delicious glimpses of mid-twentieth century America.
The denouement is a clever explanation to one who speculates on parallel universes with time-travel portals that allow human intervention in events of the past;i.e. interventions that have “butterfly effects” on outcomes of the future.
This is an imaginative audio book to savor; one that will thrill, chill, and emphatically overwhelm interested listeners.