quinta-feira, julho 05, 2012

Grassy Knoll: "11/22/63" by Stephen King

On par with "The Stand", "The Dead Zone", "Pet Sematary" and "Full Dark, No Stars" (to my mind the best books King ever wrote), he's back and in good form, after the semi-disappointment of "Under the Dome".  Between the JFK assassination and the personal side of things (characterwise), everyone who wants to go for it, will have one hell of a ride.

The "time travel" novel is almost the literary equivalent of the bored, uninspired rock star's covers album - when in doubt go H.G. It's almost absurdly formulaic: Establish a mechanism for the time warp, conjure up an historic and significant precedent to hang the narrative on, pack it out with period detail, have a couple of characters ask, ridiculously, if our hero is actually "from the future", and keep the reader guessing to the end if history can actually be rewritten. Throw in some hokey pseudo-science, a pretty love story, go heavy on the nostalgia, toss in a few in-jokes and you've got this door stop of a novel.

But, what saves this from being a lost episode of Quantum Leap, is King's masterly story telling ability, and the depth with which he's drawn the characters. We actually care about them and how their fates will be decided. This was my first ever Stephen King, and I'm not sure yet if I'll read any more. I'm aware, of course, that many of my favourite films have come from his stories, so we've all lived with him and his world whether we have read the books or not.

There are some truly terrible bits in this, but I'm being picky and in a novel running to over 700 pages not all of it will work. Fortunately, these lesser parts are mere paragraphs long - just turbulence or bumps on the highway. It takes a large measure of suspended belief in the first place to pick up any novel, especially a Stephen King one about time travel, so it would be rather churlish (and unsportsmanlike) to point out the many and obvious plot holes, anachronisms, pointless character diversions and non-sequitur sub plots. And, of course, all the other amazing things you would probably do if you did go back in time (best rock star ever, for one!). But it's really not about any of this, of course. It's a good old fashioned adventure and great fun - the best fun you could possibly have reading about a deranged assassin who may (or may not) have blown the President's brain out. There's the now familiar phrases we've become conditioned to only associate with this event ; "Texas School Book Depository", "sniper's nest", "grassy knoll", "Dealey Plaza" and "motorcade", and a careful well thought out creation of the times. It's fine entertainment, not profound literature, and never pretends otherwise. And, like the best memories, it leaves a lasting imprint.