Friday, October 5, 2012

Review of 11/22/63

Glad you stopped by.  I've been planning to publish this review for a couple of days, now.  But I'd forgotten I had already scheduled the other posts.

Hope you are a Stephen King fan, like me.  I love Stephen King.  I have since the day someone handed me Night Shift when I was a 911 dispatcher and was, ironically, working the night shift at the Central Fire Department.  I was only twenty or twenty-one, just a durn kid, really, and I was all alone on the first floor of the fire house.  Ooo-eee-oooo.  Do you know how large and empty a fire department is when all the day shift goes home?

Yep.  It was 'pooky!  That's baby talk for spooky.  I have lots of grandbabies, and when they aren't around, my dogs fill in.  They know lots of baby-talk.  Either that or they have DSP, you know, Doggie Sensory Perception.

Anyway, there I was, all alone on the first floor of the fire station, all the firemen upstairs asleep or whatever (playing poker probably), and I was down there all alone (did I mention that already?) reading The Woman in the Room.  It is still one of my favorite Stephen King short stories, along with The Last Rung on the Ladder (same book, Night Shift), and it isn't that they are some of the scarier stories, because they aren't, really, except when you stop to think about them, they are the scariest ones of all because they are grounded in reality.  But maybe that's just the adult coming out in me now.

Wow, little off topic here.  What I was going to say, somewhere along the line, is that while I was reading the story, I glanced out my one barred window at the parking lot.  There was a scant white moon, just a suggestion, really, and that's when I saw it, a human head with long blond hair hanging over the short railing that separated the parking lot from the sidewalk leading to my door.

I didn't scream.  I'm not a screamer, not even in the delivery room a few years later when my daughter was born, but I did gasp.  Nearly sucked my Diet Dr Pepper down the wrong hole if you know what I mean . . . and then the head raised up and looked at me across the narrow patch of ground.

It was a woman all right, but she was tiny.  The railing was only a couple feet off the ground, perfect for parking a foot while chatting with someone, but not perfect for a head to be floating above.

I stared at the woman, but I could not make out her face.  Just that mass of gorgeous blond hair.  I was debating calling a cop from the PD next door to come over and tell me what the heck I was seeing, when the head bent over the railing again as though to pick something up off the ground, or to throw up, I wasn't sure which.  (Without sound effects, it's hard to tell when someone is calling Ralph.  And I couldn't hear a thing through the bullet-proof glass.)

That's when I realized I was looking at a beautifully-coiffed midget.  In blue jeans and a red tank top.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and then she raised up and stared straight into my window.

I almost died.

I could not see her eyes at all.  She had put on sunglasses.  At midnight.  That's what she'd been picking up off the ground.  When she turned and walked away across the dark parking lot, I finally remembered to breathe again.

I never saw a car.  Never saw where she went.  For one nerve-jangling moment, I was certain she was going to appear right at my window.  That she had somehow gotten past me and was sneaking around the opposite end of the building, working her way back to me (isn't that an old song?).  At her height, her eyes would have been perfectly level with the window ledge.

Gathering my nerves about me like a ragged shawl, I tiptoed to the window and yanked down the shade.  I thought I'd seen a glimmer of gold rounding the far corner of the building, but I wasn't positive.  So I just closed her out; closed out the whole night so-to-speak.

But you guessed it.  Not knowing what was on the other side of that window shade was almost as bad, if not worse, than what I'd actually seen.

For hours I tried to figure out why the tiny woman had frightened me so.  First off, it was dark.  Secondly, her hair was hanging over the foot rail--or parking rail--whatever you call that two foot high rail, and that's all I saw.  Then, when she stood up, I thought she must of been on her knees or something.  My mind kept telling me her head should not have been down there near the rail, it should have been two or even three feet, higher.

And finally, just when I thought I had her figured out, she faced me with those dark sunglasses on.   None of it made any sense.  Where had she come from?  Better yet, where did she go?  It was like the beginning of a scary story, and seriously, I've wanted to make it into one, but it just won't mold.  Not yet, anyhow . . .

Okay, enough about me.  I promised a review here, didn't I?  In a nutshell, 11/22/63, the story of what one man would do if given the opportunity to go back in time and stop Oswald from killing JFK, was too long.

The book started off like a house-a-fire (note the smooth-yet-belated segue?).  The time travel portal, or rabbit hole as he called it, was in the back of a diner . . . and that was classic King.  I believed it.  It was real.  The characters were super, too.  Al Templeton, the dying owner, and Jake Epperson, the would-be hero, were so good they could have walked off the page.  But then, SK is the MASTER of setting and characterization, remember The Body a/k/a Stand by Me?  Loved the novella, loved the movie . . . don't get me started.

Anyhow, I was so onboard with the book from the beginning, I was in fiction heaven, right up until we actually got to the part about Lee Harvey Oswald.  Then it was as if Mr. King was determined to include every scrap of research he'd uncovered about the man's life.  Blech.  Every detail.  Yuck.  I got so bogged down.  And I got confused.  The mobsters didn't resonate.  Funny isn't it?  I'm totally into the fictional characters, and yet totally bored with the real ones.  Hmmm . . .  could it be me?

Possibly.  All I know is, once we got the deed done (I won't spoil it by telling you which way it went), then I was okay again.  But I will admit this -- I had to read and reread the ending to make sure I understood what he'd done, and was going to do.

So, if you are a huge SK fan like me, you won't be disappointed.  In fact, I would love to hear your take on the book when you finish!  Myself, I gave it ★★★★.

Afterthought:  I can't wait for Joyland, his new detective-type novel, and In the Tall Grass, another story written by him and his son, Joe Hill.  And then we can look forward to Dr. Sleep, next year.  I believe that one is the sequel to The Shining (and wait until I tell you where I was when I read that one!).  At least I think I'm telling this right--about the upcoming books and stories--but feel free to double check my facts here.  I'm simply going on memory from what he said last year when my dear cuz took us to see him speak at George Mason University.  But that's another post for another day. =)

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