Monday, January 23, 2012

A book recommendation

I've never been much of a Stephen King fan, in part because I generally don't care for the horror genre, and in part because once you see the liberal/environmental extremist themes running through his stories, it becomes sort of tiresome.

(Watch "The Shining" again, and look for all the neither-clever-nor-subtle hints about alleged abuse of American Indians. Likewise, once you realize "Pet Semetary" is just a thinly veiled screed about oil companies, it loses a lot of its charm.)

Also, science fiction doesn't interest me much. I had a good friend in high school who worshiped the Heinlein/Asimov/Clarke trinity and did his best to draw me in, but it just never took.

However, once in a while the subject of time travel will captivate me. When I was young there was a short-lived series called "Time Tunnel" that I found fascinating, and in my college years, a film called "Time after Time" captured my imagination. (In the movie, Jack the Ripper is transported into the 20th century by a time machine owned by H.G. Wells, who then has to chase after him. Great story, and it includes a very young Mary Steenburgen. Worth watching if you ever see it on cable.) And of course, the "Back to the Future" series is always great fun. (Trivia note: The first "Back to the Future" was specially screened at the White House and was said to be Ronald Reagan's favorite movie.)

But I digress. My appreciation for time travel stories has allowed me to take on another Stephen King book, and I'm going to use a blog post just to tell you how much I enjoyed his recently published "11/22/63."

The date, of course, is the date of John F. Kennedy's assassination. I've mentioned in earlier posts that I was fortunate enough to have a high school history teacher who encouraged me to research JFK's shooting (I was only six when it happened), and over the years I've read almost everything there is to read about it. When I heard that King was using the event to write a time travel book, I decided to take a chance on him again.

What's it about? Well, it's about 850 pages (sorry, old joke), but don't let that keep you from taking a crack at it. The premise of the book is that a modern-day high school teacher is shown a way to travel back in time, and the friend who shows him the portal urges him to go back and find a way to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting JFK. He agrees to do so, and along the way he begins to understand all of the implications of messing with past events. That's as much plot as I'm going to give you, lest I spoil the story, but it's a fun, fun read.

It's even more fun for people who know some of the more obscure details of the assassination, because all sorts of historical figures - both famous and obscure - keep showing up in the story as our time traveler runs into folks like Edwin Walker, Jack Ruby, George de Mohrenschildt, James Hosty and others, including a great scene in which he opens his apartment door to find Marina Oswald standing there, looking for her husband.

Despite the 850 or so pages, I was able to read it in just a few days because the story is so fun, and so interesting, that it just flies by. Take a chance and dig into it, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

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