Can Stephen King handle time travel?

stephen-kingImage Credit: Joe Kohen/Getty ImagesIf you’re a true fan of Stephen King, by now you’ve probably read the synopsis of his upcoming book, 11/22/63. The plot is pretty out there: Jake Epping, a teacher, travels to 1958 via a portal in his friend’s diner, where he takes on a mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination. In the meantime, he meets a disturbed man named Lee Harvey Oswald, deals with culture shock of finding himself in a past decade (I can already picture a time travel cliche in the film version: Jake at a soda shop, where “One Fine Day” is playing in the background), and falls passionately in love with a comely librarian named Sadie Dunhill. The upcoming 1,000-page novel sounds like an intriguing departure for Uncle Stevie, but not all of his readers are convinced. Allison Flood of the Guardian counts herself among King’s fans but remains skeptical as to whether he can make time travel interesting.

I have to agree that narratively, time travel can be eye-crossingly confusing if you try too hard to make sense of it. Also, the mechanics of time travel are usually not that interesting to read about (I know a lot of you will disagree, but I thought the depiction of constant “Chrono-Displacement” in The Time Traveler’s Wife became so tedious that I couldn’t finish it). However, Flood writes that while she’s not sold on the premise of the upcoming novel, she believes if anyone call pull off time travel, it’s Uncle Stevie. King has proven time and again his versatility and big imagination. He’s written about everything from telekinetic misfits to rural noir to alien spacecrafts. While he may not have written about the JFK or time travel to the 60’s yet, he’s successfully written about a dimension-hopping killer clown, and that’s quite an achievement. (By the way, does anyone else have to drop everything and watch It whenever it’s on TV?)

Are you looking forward to 11/22/63, or do you think Stephen King’s time is better spent working on the next Dark Tower or The Shining sequel? What do you think of time travel as a device in fiction in general?


Comments (39 total) Add your comment
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  • Michelle

    Love him. Even though I felt crushed by the end of the Dark Tower series (yes I realize it was about the journey, not the end, I just wanted to see Roland at peace), I will read anything he writes because of his amazingly descriptive characters.

    • liz

      He wrote a new Dark Tower book. It comes out next year. Love him and can’t wait to read the new book/s.

    • dave

      It is nice to hear someone with the same opinion as me on the ending. I am in the minority amongst my friends that have also read The Dark Tower.

  • MWeyer

    While the twist of the book (which King himself gave away in an interview years ago first discussing the idea) sounds like an old “Twilight Zone” ep, the humanity King always masters should make this notable.

  • Jay

    The next Dark Tower is on its way — King announced it this week. If there’s one thing he is, it’s prolific!

  • Jeff from Jersey; yes New Jersey

    I believe Mr. King*s track record of writing about the end of the world, a St Bernard with health problems and a man who takes an ax to his work (literaly) among other tomes, can handle a time travel story.

    • Tracey D. Sims

      Exactly. Well said.

  • gf120581

    Wow, this is 1,000 pages too? And right after the massive brick that was “Under the Dome.” More proof of how prolific King is. Of course, if you’ve read “On Writing,” you know his mantra is “write every day” so he certainly sticks to it.

  • Google

    This dude has lost his ability to pen a story that works from beginning to end story. The first half of Under the Dome was great. Thought it might even reach The Stand heights. But the ending sucked it hard. I’ll bet the same holds true for this new book.

    • PrincessBride

      I was SOOOO disappointed with the way Under the Dome ended. He had such a great story going, then it was like, oh well, I’m not sure how to end this, so I’m going to pull a copout ending totally out of left field. I just finished re-reading The Stand and now I’m re-reading The Dead Zone. I don’t think Cell or Under the Dome will merit a second read (or way more than second – this is probably my 4th or 5th time reading The Stand).

      • squishmar

        @Princess Bride: I just finished re-reading the long-version of “The Stand” too. Probably my fifth time reading it. I noticed a lot more this time…. good books are great to read at different times in your life. Your perspective changes. Just re-read “Misery” too. That really stands up. Hard to think of the book rather than the movie but the book is really good.

      • bocoe

        I really liked “The Dome”, until I found it was alien teenage girls being mean spirited. It kind of lost some of its impact.

      • Jonathan Franz will never happen, Oprah!

        I could read Cell again-the ending really ticked me off at first, and then I grew to love its ambiguousness. Yes, I drop everything anytime It or The Stand is on!

      • Kristanna

        Play ifnromtaive for me, Mr. internet writer.

    • squishmar

      I totally agree. I read the thing twice and have decided it’s one of my least favorite books of his. There are so many continuity errors and the whole thing is such a downer. On the other hand, “Lisey’s Story” has taken over as my favorite book he’s ever written. Just beautifully written. King at his best.

  • Marc

    King did touch breifly on time-travel in the Dark Tower novels, but this will be the first time that I know of where the concept will be the main crux of the story. I always find it interesting that when you summarize any of his novels into a few sentences, the plots do tend to sound ludicrous and campy (ie a dimension hopping killer clown, or cell phones that turn people into raging, violent zombies) But when you actually sit down and read the stories you find they are filled with greater depth and meaning than you expected, and of course you can’t put the damn things down. This is why, even though the plot of this new novel sounds ridiculous, I have full faith in Mr. King’s abilities and I cannot wait to read it. I am forever your Constant Reader Uncle Stevie!

  • joolsbaby

    i love his writing so much and i am absolutely positive he can handle time travel..his stories are all so gripping, tales within tales..but i agree that the dome was incredible until about the last chapter which was a massive anti climax and just a bit odd

  • tba

    I haven’t read any of his books in 15 years. I think he peaked at the end of the 80s. Every dog has his day, or 15 minutes. He’s not paying ME to write a glowing review so I don’t have to. To be honest, I prefer Dean Koontz and Neil Gaiman’s books to King’s. I didn’t really like the Dark Tower series. It was too “American” and too common. I’m not a fan of “Western” type themes.

    • FTS

      Dean Koontz? He got what he deserved in a Family Guy episode.

  • time machine

    Does this book really need to be written? H.G. Wells and that chick who wrote about the time travelling wife have already done this, maybe even better than him.

  • Diego

    I believe in Uncle Stevie, i’m curious to find what is going to happen in the present if JFK wasn’t killed, and i love the 1,000 pages in this book

  • kenneth

    I think King can pull it off. Afterall, a brief description of “Dreamcatcher” sounded like a 50s B film, but it ended up being much more than that.

  • Andy

    I’m not so worried about the time travel aspect. I’m wondering if Uncle Stevie can handle “historical fiction”. How large of a role will the JFK assassination play? What kind of research did he do? Is King going to go along with the Warren Commission version or acknowledge some CIA involvement?

    Either way, I’ll be buying it on Day 1.

  • CatsPajamas

    I love King and I’ve probably read The Stand 4 or 5 times. It was the first book I downloaded onto my Nook. However, I agree with PrincessBride and a few others about Under The Dome. I thought the story started out great but had a cop out of an ending. I hope this new book does better.

  • Lori

    Two things I love: The Time Traveler’s Wife (book version) and Stephen King, so heck yeah, I’m excited for this new book! And I’ve never seen It.

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