Audiobook Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

29 11 2011

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Read by Craig Wasson

Simon & Schuster Audio

Length: 30 Hrs 44 Mins

Genre: Time Travel Thriller

Quick Thoughts: People who think they know King from his labels as a horror novelist and pop icon will say that 11/22/63 is a departure from his other work. They are wrong. 11/22/63 is classic Stephen King full of the subtle horror themes that permeate his best works as well as an amazing cast of fascinating characters, all of whom, for good or ill adds something to the overall story.

Grade: A-

The first Stephen King novel I ever read was Christine, and since then, I have always had a bit of a love/"meh" relationship with his work. Unlike many people my age, my first forays into the horror/suspense genre wasn’t through King, but Dean Koontz. I had read The Bad Place, then Watchers and loved them, and often heard the two authors compared, so I began to read King as well. But unlike Koontz, King’s writing truly transformed me as a reader. I can trace the point where I moved from mildly interested in Post Apocalyptic tales to utterly obsessed when I turned my first page of The Stand. The first novel I remember truly scaring me and actually entering my nightmares was It (they all float down here…). The Dark Tower Series became my gateway to epic fantasy, and even what many consider a clunker, Needful Things, fed my love of Dark Comedy. Yet, not all of Stephen King’s novels were a hit with me, sure, I love Alien Invasion novels, but The Tommyknockers and Dreamcatcher very well could have set that love back years. In fact, Dreamcatcher was my very first audiobook, and I found it quite a useful cure for Insomnia. (Pun?)  After attempting to listen to Dreamcatcher I wouldn’t try another audiobook for over 10 years. So, when I discovered that Stephen King was putting out a time travel novel, I was cautiously excited. This either could be one of his rambling tales full of unnecessary side trips or it could again show me why King is the most influential author of my generation.

I love time travel novels of all sorts, but especially the kind where people travel into the past and change things, yet despite 11/22/63 being exactly that type of novel, I had concerns. I understand that the JFK assassination is a pivotal point in history, especially for people in King’s Generation, I never looked on it as the all encompassing game changing historical moment that some do.  If I found out there was a portal back to the late 1950’s, my first thought wouldn’t be that I just had to save Kennedy. So sure, I was a bit skeptical, but I needn’t have been. 11/22/63 is definitely a novel with peaks and valleys, yet, luckily for the reader the valleys are nice, and the peaks awesome.  For science fiction time travel fans, I think there could be a level of frustration. The main character, Jake Epping jumps ass first into the machinations of time travel without all the obsessive preparations that sci-fi geeks would have made.  In fact, he relies solely of the research of another for the histories he was about to interact with which is something us geeks who grew up on Star Trek and Asimov novels never would have done. Add to that the fact that King practically proselytizes about how much better things are without that annoying internet, or them there cell phones, that I really should have hated this novel. Yet, King won me over with wonderful characters, touching slice of life moments, and a harrowing battle between Jake and the obdurate past which in a very real way is the antagonist of this story. People who think they know King from his labels as a horror novelist and pop icon will say that 11/22/63 is a departure from his other work. They are wrong. 11/22/63 is classic Stephen King full of the subtle horror themes that permeate his best works as well as an amazing cast of fascinating characters, all of whom, for good or ill adds something to the overall story. 

I think it very important for audiobook narrators to not just read novels but perform them. For 11/22/63 narrator Craig Wasson doesn’t just heed that advice, but tackles it, throwing in a few kicks to the balls for good measure. I was so ready to lambaste the narrator for over performing the novel, with his oddly timed laughs and screaming the ends of his sentences, but at some point Wasson’s narration went from annoying to endearing. I would never site this as an example of excellent technical narration, but Wasson created the Jake Epping character with his voice, and never let up. There were a few moments in the novel, where it seemed like a line was picked up in the recording, and it didn’t match the energy of the reading, and that was a bit distracting, but overall the production was well done. Wasson’s reading reminded me of the loud annoying guy at a party who has had one too many drinks, yet eventually you realize that his drunken tales are actually quite fascinating.  Overall, I had a lot of fun with the novel and having an over the top narrator helped to keep some of the lulls in the story interesting, and really, what more can you want?

 

Note: A Special thanks to the good people at Simon & Schuster Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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4 responses

29 11 2011
John @ audiobookfans.com

Nice review! Like you, King was definitely a “gateway” author that lead me to many different genres.

29 11 2011
Jenn's Bookshelves

I agree; King introduced me to a completely new world. As you know, I agree wholeheartedly with your review. While I read the print version, I do plan on listening to the audio. I loved the book that much!

29 05 2012
Armchair Audies Roundup: Science Fiction « The Guilded Earlobe

[…] 11/22/63 by Stephen King […]

9 10 2014
Natasha

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