(Ever read a book review with a preface before? Well, now you will…)
I’ve been a fan of King’s work since Carrie, the first book he published and the first one I read. Since then, it’s been tough keeping up with him, since he writes so darn fast and furiously! But I have tried. I’d stack up his earlier work against any contemporary author: he’s an amazing storyteller, he weaves a great plot with interesting and believable characters, and he has an incredible imagination, especially for the bizarre and inexplicable. But in recent years (really starting with the Dark Tower series), it’s as though both his internal and external editors have been turned off. His books have become interminable. This does not make them BAD, by any means, but most could be half to three quarters the size they are, without losing anything in the story if edited well.
And now, the actual review.
11/22/63 is a case in point. The premise is fascinating and the narrative of the time traveler’s late fifties/early sixties experiences is wonderful: it truly immerses the reader in the scene. But it goes on for way too long. For me, reading some of the mundane day-in-the-life bits conjured up the frustration of following people on Twitter or reading updates on Facebook: we really don’t need to hear that you went to the grocery store today or that you bought new shoes. Had the pages been used to delve into the protagonist’s relationships or motivations, I could see the need for the bulk of this tome. But too many pages are spent watching him pass the time until he can intervene in pivotal points of the past. A few events prove important later, but since they are lumped in with so much idle time, it is difficult to recall them once they are mentioned again. Much of the trivial material could have been summed up with the revision skills of which I know King is capable — I know because he used to edit himself (or his editor did the job); now, it’s as though he prefers to do a brain dump and take nothing out, and the publisher has said, “Hey, if it’s longer, we can charge more. People will still buy it — it’s Stephen King!” They are probably right.
Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps with having less time to read these days, I am not as patient with books anymore. But I don’t seem to be getting as frustrated by the work of other authors as I am by King’s. Maybe I just miss his old, more compact style. I still love King’s work, and I’ll keep reading (when I have time for a long book). I just wish the editor would get turned back on.